ANAHEIM -- Nick Tropeano pounded his right hand against the pocket of his glove and then spread his arms out wide, exhaling deeply as he retreated to the dugout. The Angels' young starting pitcher had escaped a bases-loaded, none-out jam unscathed on Wednesday night, pitching deeper in a game than ever before.
It got Tropeano through seven innings, and culminated his best start of the year, one in which he worked around nine baserunners to allow only one run in an 8-1 victory over the Dodgers at Angel Stadium.
Tropeano completed seven innings for the first time in 19 career Major League starts, and completed at least six for the first time in eight tries this season.
"Nick, from the get-go, was trying to be more aggressive in the zone," manager Mike Scioscia said, his team persevering through 11 injured players to win for the fifth time in six games. "I think in the back of his mind he does have that little cloud of, 'When am I going to get into the sixth inning? When am I going to finish six?'"
Tropeano recorded no fewer than 15 outs and no more than 17 outs in his first seven starts. He needed 104 pitches to complete five innings of two-run ball in Seattle on Friday, a line that encapsulated his season -- effective, but inefficient.
Then Wednesday came.
Tropeano retired the first 10 batters in order, requiring only 24 pitches to record the first out in the fourth. He finished scattering seven hits, issuing two walks and striking out four in a 96-pitch, seven-inning outing and still felt strong enough to come out for the eighth.
The 25-year-old right-hander has given up three earned runs or fewer in seven of his eight starts, and his ERA is down to 3.30.
"He trusts his stuff," center fielder Mike Trout said, "and that's what I like about him."
Tropeano's first baserunner was Justin Turner, who reached with one out in the fourth, only because Tropeano slipped just before letting go, forcing his full-count slider to tail out of the zone.
Said Tropeano: "I did a little cartwheel there."
Tropeano followed by giving up a double to Corey Seager and, two batters later, a two-out, line-drive single to Joc Pederson, putting the Dodgers on the board. But he struck out Trayce Thompson to end the fourth, then got out of a second-and-third, two-out jam in the fifth and somehow escaped the seventh.
The inning began with three singles from the bottom three hitters of the Dodgers' order -- Yasmani Grandal, Yasiel Puig and Carl Crawford -- loading the bases with the Angels ahead by seven runs. Tropeano was reeling, but his stuff looked good and the Angels' bullpen had been working really hard, so Scioscia had "no doubt" about keeping him in.
Kiké Hernandez came next, pinch-hitting for Chase Utley, and Tropeano struck him out on a 1-2 changeup perfectly located low and inside. The next batter was Turner, who looked at a couple of offspeed pitches slightly off the outside corner and got a changeup in almost the exact same spot, rolling over to bounce into a 5-4-3, inning-ending double play.
"You could see it in his eyes tonight, when he got that big double play," Trout said. "It was a big pitch for him, big pitch for the team. It was an energize inning."
Tropeano boasts a solid three-pitch mix, with a devastating fastball-changeup combination and an above-average slider. His command is sharp, and he trusts his ability to locate on every quadrant of the strike zone, no matter the count. But sometimes he tries to be a little too fine, so his pitches tail off and his pitch count picks up.
"He understands this," Scioscia said. "Sometimes trying to apply it is a little different."
But Tropeano noted the aggressiveness of the Dodgers hitters through the first two Freeway Series games and pitched to early contact. Through the first four innings, 12 of the 15 batters Tropeano faced finished their at-bats after only three pitches.
It kept his pitch count low, and gave him enough to escape tough jams as the night wore on.