Nick Tropeano held a dangerous Rangers lineup scoreless through 6 2/3 innings on Monday, pacing the Angels' 2-0 victory and dropping his ERA to 2.86 in nine starts. The Angels' rotation has a 3.00 ERA over the last 11 games, the fourth-best mark in the Major Leagues -- even though Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, C.J. Wilson and Tyler Skaggs are not a part of it.
"Coming into the spring, we had eight guys fighting for those spots, and we were all capable of pitching here," Tropeano said. "And we all know it. It kind of fuels us. We fuel each other."
There was a time, not too long ago, when the Angels weren't sure how they would get through this season.
Richards and Heaney were tending to tears in their ulnar collateral ligaments, Skaggs was shut down in the late stages of his recovery from August 2014 Tommy John surgery, and Wilson hadn't overcome the shoulder woes that began to plague him in February, forcing the front office to swing a deal for Jhoulys Chacin and aggressively pursue Tim Lincecum, ultimately guaranteeing him upward of $3.7 million.
Over a 14-game stretch from April 27 to May 13, an Angels starting pitcher completed six innings only one time, putting a heavy burden on a bullpen that was already without closer Huston Street.
Since then, though, Angels starters have pitched into the seventh inning in seven of 10 games.
"Our starting rotation is starting to hopefully settle," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "These guys are all giving us an opportunity to win, for the most part. We're getting much deeper into games, and we're going to need it."
Tropeano has given up two earned runs or fewer in seven of his nine starts. He was effective from the start, but only recently did he begin to grasp the concept of pitch efficiency.
The 25-year-old right-hander pitched seven innings of one-run ball against the Dodgers on Wednesday, marking the first time he recorded more than 17 outs all year, and then held Texas to four hits and one walk over 6 2/3 innings on Monday, striking out six.
"In the past," Tropeano said, "I think I was trying to be too fine with my pitches -- trying to throw that perfect pitch instead of a quality pitch down in the zone early in the count. I think [catcher Carlos Perez] kind of helped me with that, getting ahead of counts, getting ahead of hitters, and using my off-speed to get them out late."
Tropeano's outing came one day after Jered Weaver pitched seven innings of two-run ball and two days after 7 1/3 scoreless innings in the most impressive start of Matt Shoemaker's career. In about a month, the Angels should have two new starting pitchers, with Wilson hoping to be activated off the disabled list by early June and Lincecum on track to join the team by the middle of June.
This stage is something of an audition, for everybody.
"Do you think I'm on the hill thinking about Tim Lincecum and C.J. Wilson? Nah," Tropeano said. "I think we're just out there pitching our games, trying to execute pitches early in the count and trying to get those big outs when I need it."