Shoemaker sunk by slow start

Shoemaker sunk by slow start

ANAHEIM -- It began with five baserunners and it ended with nine outs. Matt Shoemaker's first regular-season start looked a lot like many of the ones from Spring Training.

He was charged with six runs, completed three innings, taxed his bullpen and dug an early hole for his Angels, who ultimately lost to the division-rival Rangers, 7-3, on Friday night.

"Very frustrating," Shoemaker said. "But after tonight, it's out of your head."

Shoemaker put the first five batters on and allowed three runs before recording the game's first out. There was a leadoff walk to Delino DeShields, one Shoemaker felt "kind of set the tone," and a bunt single by Shin-Soo Choo.

Then Shoemaker started missing.

A 1-0, 92-mph fastball to Prince Fielder was just a tad higher than the target from Angels catcher Carlos Perez, allowing Fielder to get just enough barrel on it to muscle it into a vacant center field for an RBI single.

A 3-2, 92-mph fastball to Adrian Beltre tailed middle-in, as opposed to ending up low and away, and the Rangers' third baseman smoked it to left field for a line-drive hit.

A 1-1, 83-mph changeup to Mitch Moreland was supposed to be buried low, but it wound up chest-high, which is always a dangerous spot for that pitch, and Moreland lined it off first base for a run-scoring double.

"Overall," Shoemaker said, "the name of this game is if you're down, you're going to have success."

That is especially the case with Shoemaker, who relies heavily on a split-finger fastball that, when right, is a lethal strikeout pitch that dives below the strike zone.

The 29-year-old right-hander located well in the third, with a 0-1, 90-mph fastball at the knees of Rougned Odor. But the Rangers' second baseman lifted it just high enough to get it over the right-center-field scoreboard for a two-run homer. Kole Calhoun told Shoemaker that it hit the top of the fence.

But, as Shoemaker said, "It's still a homer," and if you count Spring Training, it marked the 10th one he has allowed in 28 innings this year.

"Today's extremely frustrating, they had some good hits - but there was a lot of weak contact," said Shoemaker, who exited after a leadoff single in the fourth and then watched that runner score. "That's what you're looking for as a pitcher. And a lot of these days, those balls will go right at guys. Those are the days you put up seven shutout innings. If you look at it that way, mentally, it's a lot more easy going into the next start. And you have to do it that way. But no matter how you put it, I still have to execute better."

Last year, Shoemaker's homers jumped from 14 in 136 innings to 24 in 135 1/3 innings, prompting his ERA to balloon from 3.04 to 4.46.

He followed with a 6.84 ERA the ensuing spring. But Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who nonetheless placed Shoemaker in his rotation, still "saw flashes" of the brilliant 2014 season, when Shoemaker came out of nowhere to win 16 games and finish second in American League Rookie of the Year Award voting.

"It's in Matt," Scioscia said. "We know that."

Shoemaker is comforted by his belief that he didn't give up a lot of hard contact and didn't miss badly with his location. He chalks his first start up to tough luck more so than bad execution, and he said his signature split-finger fastball plays a lot better outside the dry air of Arizona, which makes him believe there will be better days ahead, tough as the first one might have been.

"But that's the positive thing, too," Shoemaker said. "It's just one. Long season. Hopefully 30-plus more starts, and I'll have a lot more good ones after this."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.