Shoemaker elevating game in last two starts

Angels starter goes career-high 8 1/3, strikes out 11

Shoemaker elevating game in last two starts

ANAHEIM -- For much of the 2016 season, Angels manager Mike Scioscia wasn't sure which version of right-hander Matt Shoemaker he was going to get.

Good Matt Shoemaker showed up for the second consecutive start Friday night, tossing a career-high 8 1/3 innings of two-run ball and striking out 11 in a 7-2 win over the Astros at Angel Stadium.

Shoemaker was dominant from the start, building off of the momentum from his last start against the Orioles, in which he threw a then-season-high 7 1/3 shutout innings, striking out 12. He held the Astros scoreless until the ninth, when reliever Cam Bedrosian gave up a two-run single to Colin Moran, and he was already out of the ballgame. He is the first player in Angels franchise history to strike out 10 or more hitters and walk none in back-to-back starts.

Few, if any, could have seen this coming after a start to the season that saw him demoted to Triple-A with a 9.15 April ERA. Well, except for maybe Scioscia.

"We always felt that at some point he was going to get back to where he was," Scioscia said. "None of us feel that a couple years ago was a fluke."

Shoemaker has flashed this kind of ability before. In 2014, he went 16-4 and posted a 3.04 ERA, even earning American League Pitcher of the Month honors that August. He'd show it again from time to time in 2015, but could never find the consistency necessary as he posted a 7-10 record with a 4.46 ERA. Scioscia said he feels Shoemaker has not just turned the corner on this season, but could be elevating his game higher than it has ever been before.

"This is reminiscent of a couple years ago, but with a little something extra," Scioscia said. "Everything in the last couple starts has come together for him. … These last two games have been as good as you can pitch."

Shoemaker has gone 2-1 with a 3.28 ERA since being recalled for a May 11 start against St. Louis, and just may be starting to figure things out. While there may not necessarily be one thing that plagued him to start his season, Shoemaker said he's seeing things better than just about any point in his career.

"Sometimes when you're on the mound, and every pitcher goes through it, you go out there just kind of throwing the ball," Shoemaker said. "You get the sign, the pitch and you just throw the ball. When you're focused on the catcher, the execution of the pitch, what the hitter's trying to do, all that stuff and the focus is there."

Shoemaker talks after the win

For now, it appears Scioscia may not have to worry about which version of Shoemaker he will get in any given start. He's got confident Shoemaker, which is just fine with him.

"Mentally, I'm definitely a little different," Shoemaker said. "I'm in a better state of mind, going over hitters and game plans and sticking with it. I'm the same guy, but maybe a better mindset."

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.