Angels' pitching staff has stepped up in big way

Angels' pitching staff has stepped up in big way

ARLINGTON -- The Angels are shocking the baseball world, not only because they've picked up 12 games in the American League West in the last 31 days but because they have the best record despite suffering two debilitating injuries to a rotation that was thin to begin with.

Many wondered how the Angels would recover from the loss of Garrett Richards, who tore the patellar tendon in his left knee while covering first base on Aug. 20, but nobody expected this: Since Richards went down, the pitching staff has the second-lowest ERA in the American League.

"There's a lot of factors you can look at," pitching coach Mike Butcher said. "Guys are throwing the ball well, we're playing great defense, we've been scoring some runs. When you're scoring runs early, I think that helps alleviate some of those stress innings that you have when you're out there. I think overall we're just executing a nice game plan, and guys are working ahead, for the most part."

Heading into Wednesday's game, the Angels had a 3.09 ERA over a 19-game stretch that began on Aug. 21, trailing only the Yankees (2.89) for the AL lead. The rotation has found a way to compile a 3.36 ERA, sixth-best in the AL, even though the Angels essentially have a bullpen game every time Richards' spot comes up.

Their four traditional starters -- Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker and Hector Santiago -- have allowed three earned runs or fewer in 14 of their 16 starts since Richards went down, helping the Angels compile a Major League-best 14-5 record in that stretch.

"A lot of terms get turned around about guys 'stepping up,' but I really just think it's taking advantage of the opportunity," Butcher said. "Don't try to do too much. Just go out there and be who you are; understanding what your game is and going out there and doing it. Our bullpen has done a terrific job as well, and our starters have done a good job of not trying to do too much and just being themselves."

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