Angels reliever Scott Downs delivers a pitch during the eighth inning of… (Gary A. Vasquez / U.S. Presswire )
His fastball, which tops out at 89 mph, isn't electric, and his breaking pitches aren't nasty, but flashy stuff is not necessarily the stuff of superb pitchers.
Left-hander Scott Downs is 5-2 with a 1.32 earned-run average in 37 games, the third-lowest ERA among American League relievers with at least 30 appearances.
Downs, 35, has not given up a run in 20 home outings, including a scoreless eighth inning in Thursday's 1-0 win over the Texas Rangers.
Downs replaced Jered Weaver with a runner on first and got Josh Hamilton to ground into a fielder's choice and Adrian Beltre and Michael Young to fly out.
Wednesday night, Downs needed only 19 pitches to retire six batters in the seventh and eighth innings of a dramatic 9-8 come-from-behind win over Texas.
Downs, who signed a three-year, $15-million deal with the Angels last winter, has stranded 19 of 21 inherited runners. Opponents are batting .167 (20 for 120) against him.
"When he pitched against us [for Toronto], you'd look at the radar-gun readings, you'd see he spins the ball well, and you're thinking, 'My gosh, does he ever make a mistake?' " Manager Mike Scioscia said.
"He has nice late life on his fastball, late tail or sink, depending on what he does with the ball, and he has terrific command. I don't know if there's a reliever we've seen who is pitching with the consistency of Scott."
When Mike Trout beat out a grounder to shortstop for a run-scoring infield single in the sixth inning Wednesday night, third base coach Dino Ebel timed him from home to first in 3.82 seconds.
That was the Angels' fastest time this season, faster than Peter Bourjos, and faster than any player Ebel has clocked except Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki, who was timed at 3.78 seconds.
But Ichiro is left-handed and is usually leaning toward first base when he makes contact. Trout bats right-handed.
"The Texas players were all looking at each other like, 'Wow,' " said Ebel, who holds a stopwatch while he coaches third.
Typical home-to-first times are 4.3 seconds for right-handed hitters and 4.2 seconds for left-handed hitters. Bourjos' times are about 3.87 seconds.
"A good time for me was 4.82 seconds," joked Scioscia, the former Dodgers catcher. "From the right side, 3.82 seconds is as good as you're going to see."
Bring the heat
The Angels, who have lost four of seven games since the All-Star break, and the Baltimore Orioles, in last place in the AL East, are not the hottest teams in baseball, but they might be, at least in terms of temperature, this weekend.
The forecast for Friday in Baltimore, where the Angels open a 10-game trip, calls for a high of 105 degrees, with a heat index of 116. The forecast high for Saturday is 102.
"I like heat, but that's going to feel like playing baseball in a Jacuzzi," right fielder Torii Hunter said. "At least we'll be loose, but we've got to make sure we stay hydrated."
The Angels optioned reliever Trevor Bell to triple A on Thursday and will activate reliever Fernando Rodney, who has been out since June 9 because of an upper-back strain, on Friday.