Bullpen comes to rescue in Freeway Series finale

Angels relievers bail out Chacin after he exits early

Bullpen comes to rescue in Freeway Series finale

ANAHEIM -- The game was getting out of hand for the Angels against the Dodgers Thursday night. With the bases loaded and one out in the fifth for slugger Joc Pederson, the Dodgers appeared primed to bust the game wide open.

They didn't, as Angels reliever Jose Alvarez came in and limited the damage to one run (charged to starter Jhoulys Chacin). The game shifted. The bullpen pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings, and the Angels celebrated a 7-4 comeback win, their sixth victory in their last seven contests.

Alvarez was brought in following a short outing from Chacin, who loaded the bases on a pair of walks and a single. Alvarez got Pederson to ground out, scoring a run, but avoiding the big hit. A Trayce Thompson ground out later, he was out of the inning.

The stop, which was the latest for an Angels bullpen that has seen plenty of work this season, kept them in it. The next half-inning, the Angels offense rallied for three runs to take the lead and never looked back.

"I think the job from Jose Alvarez saved the game, considering the circumstances," manager Mike Scioscia said.

Alvarez was perfect for 1 2/3 innings, followed by strong performances from Greg Mahle, Fernando Salas and closer Joe Smith to wrap up the game. The bullpen allowed one baserunner, a two-out eighth inning walk by Salas.

"I got in trouble myself, but the bullpen backed me up today," Chacin said. "They rescued me today, and they did their job for us to win the game. That's the goal."

The Angels have made a habit of using the bullpen early this season -- something Scioscia has found alarming.

Injuries to starters Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, C.J. Wilson and Tyler Skaggs have led to a starting rotation that, entering play Thursday, had thrown the fourth-fewest innings in the American League (217 2/3). The rotation was in such dire need that the organization looked elsewhere, calling right-hander Matt Shoemaker up from Triple-A following a rough start to the season and taking a chance in trading for Chacin.

The bullpen had thrown the fourth-most innings in the AL (136).

They've performed well under the circumstances, posting a 3.44 ERA, entering play Thursday even while dealing with an injury of their own to Opening Day closer Huston Street. Scioscia said while the bullpen's performance has been admirable, it's on the starting rotation to allow them to reset every once in a while.

"Our starting pitching has to get us to a certain point in the game on a consistent basis or those guys will be just back to where they were a week ago," Scioscia said. "They were hanging by a thread."

The starting pitching has improved of late -- left-hander Hector Santiago threw eight scoreless innings Sunday, and right-hander Nick Tropeano set a career-high Wednesday by throwing seven innings. The next step is to do so consistently.

Until then, the Angels need all the help they can get from their bullpen.

Fabian Ardaya is a reporter for MLB.com based in Anaheim. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.