There’s a comforting feeling Angels fans have when Matt Moore is warming up for the penultimate inning. Then, when Carlos Estévez starts preparing to close out the game, it’s all but over for the opponent. Moore has held leads 12 times and Estévez is tied for third in the majors with 12 saves.
“I’m like, ‘This is it. Enough. We’re gonna get this game,’” Estévez once said of his mentality as a closer. “That mentality of, ‘You’re not gonna touch me.’”
The Angels are tied for second in the majors with 11 blown saves. Not that the bullpen has had an easy job. In 15 games this season, an Angels starter failed to complete at least five innings.
That was not the case in the series against the Boston Red Sox. And on Wednesday, Tyler Anderson gave up one earned run in six innings in a 7-3 win and three-game sweep. Mike Trout hit his 362nd career home run, passing Joe DiMaggio on the all-time list.
The Angels refreshed their bullpen over the weekend, sending down Jimmy Herget, Andrew Wantz and Zack Weiss, moving Chase Silseth back into a reliever role and bringing in seasoned relievers Jacob Webb and Reyes Moronta. The team has hope the new look can finally put the pieces of that puzzle together, build that bridge to the back end of the bullpen and give it more flexibility.
“I’m a back-of-the-baseball-card guy,” manager Phil Nevin said Tuesday. “I see what guys have done. I’ve seen the situations they’ve been in. Moronta, Webb, [Chris] Devenski, they’ve all pitched in big roles. … That means something to me. Aaron Loup’s the same way.
“Not saying that this is going to change everything, but I have, certainly, a comfort level with some of the guys I’m able to do that with in the middle.”
The Times requested Monday to speak to pitching coach Matt Wise on Tuesday. This season, the Angels permit coaches to speak to reporters only on a case-by-case basis. Wise was not permitted to speak for this story.
Jaime Barría was shifted back into the rotation with José Suarez still on the IL, though Suarez’s spot in the rotation might not be his upon his return. The bullpen going into Wednesday’s series finale against the Red Sox, included: Tucker Davidson, Silseth, Loup, Moronta, Webb, Devenski, Moore and Estévez.
Moronta and Webb were called up only days ago. Moronta loaded the bases and struggled to get through both of his outings Sunday and Wednesday. Webb closed Tuesday’s game in his first outing, securing a series win.
Davidson, Silseth and Devenski are pitchers who have come through in the middle of games to eat up more than one inning at a time. Silseth has had only one bad outing in his five.
Devenski’s ability to pitch in high-leverage situations has also, in Nevin’s eyes, put him in the conversation with Moore and Estévez, as well as being a solid bridge reliever.
On Sunday and Wednesday, he was called on to get the Angels out of bases-loaded jams, needing one out. He succeeded both times.
“Pretty good, pretty dominant,” Devenski said. “I do like coming into tight situations and cleaning up situations.”
Silseth’s move back to the bullpen is to add another powerful arm. Nevin considers him in the group of relievers who can fill the roles of Devenski, Moore or Estévez when they aren’t available. On Monday, Silseth pitched the last two innings in a win.
The bullpen had early setbacks, losing José Quijada and Austin Warren to Tommy John surgery. Last season’s reliable relievers such as Herget, Wantz, Loup and Ryan Tepera, blew two saves each. Tepera was designated for assignment May 14 after his last poor outing in Cleveland. Loup returned recently from the injured list, blowing a save Monday but closing Wednesday’s game.
But the shift in the success the bullpen has had now, Estévez surmised, comes down to fine-tuning the identities and defined roles of each reliever’s pitches and where they fit it from a strategic standpoint. It helps keep opponents guessing.
“That’s what I think is going to be bad for the other team,” Estévez said.