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ANGELS FYI

Angels closer Jordan Walden stops Mets after jitters

Angels rookie closer strikes out the middle of New York's order after walking the first two batters in the ninth inning of 4-3 victory over the Mets.

June 17, 2011|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Angels reliever Jordan Walden walked two before striking out three Mets in a row to save the game Friday night at Citi Field in New York.
Angels reliever Jordan Walden walked two before striking out three Mets… (Anthony Gruppuso / US Presswire )

Reporting from New York

It was Jordan Walden's first game in New York, and the Angels rookie closer admitted he had the jitters. That was apparent when he walked Mets leadoff batter Jose Reyes on five pitches to lead off the bottom of the ninth.

"I knew Reyes wasn't going to swing," said Walden, who was summoned to protect a one-run lead, "and I still couldn't throw it down the middle."

Reyes stole second, and Justin Turner drew an eight-pitch walk to put two on with no outs and the heart of the order coming up. In right field, Torii Hunter could feel the moment.

"Walden gave us a little heart attack," Hunter said. "That was scary."

Closers usually go to their best pitch in tight spots, and for Walden, that's an explosive fastball that regularly hits 100 mph. But instead of pushing the gas pedal Friday night, Walden down-shifted.

The right-hander struck out Carlos Beltran and Daniel Murphy, both swinging at slow sliders in the dirt. He then whiffed Angel Pagan with an 80-mph slider, as the Angels held on for a 4-3 win.

"When your fastball isn't working, you've got to go to something else," Walden said. "Today, the slider was as good as it's been. It had good bite, and I kept it down. I could tell they were geared up for the fastball."

Walden has thrown his fastball 80% of the time and his slider 18% of the time, according to fangraphs.com and he knows he will benefit by having an effective off-speed pitch.

"I'm still going to build off my fastball," Walden said, "but if the slider is as good as it was tonight, it's a plus."

Walden's 16th save preserved the 100th career victory for Angels right-hander Joel Pineiro, who survived a vicious Beltran liner off the back of his right knee in the third to go 6 1/3 innings, giving up two runs and six hits and striking out four.

It was the seventh attempt at win No. 100 for Pineiro, who hadn't won since May 10.

Kazmir collapse

Two days after the Angels released Scott Kazmir and swallowed the remainder of his $14.5-million contract, it was still difficult for Manager Mike Scioscia to fathom how quickly the left-hander's career unraveled, from a two-time All-Star who led the AL in strikeouts in 2007 to a guy who went 0-5 with a 17.02 earned-run average in five triple-A starts this season.

"I don't think I've ever seen a pitcher who wasn't injured whose skills just evaporated as much as they did for Scott," Scioscia said. "He'd long-toss 240 feet, and you can't be hurt and do that. Then he'd get on the mound and try to translate that energy into a pitch, and it wasn't there."

Scioscia, however, praised Kazmir, saying: "Nobody worked harder to get his stuff back than Scott did."

Scioscia added that he thinks Kazmir will get another chance to pitch.

"Hopefully, as the fog of what he's been through clears out, he'll get another shot somewhere," Scioscia said. "We're pulling for him."

New York, New York

The Angels were reminded Thursday night why they call this the city that never sleeps.

There was constant drilling and jack-hammering at a construction site near their Manhattan hotel, some dynamite work in a nearby subway line and a booming wake-up call in the form of a 5 a.m. EDT thunderclap.

"I haven't heard thunder like that in a while — it was pretty loud," Hunter said. "I got very little sleep. It's crazy here. It's always something in New York."

Short hops

The Angels improved their interleague record to 52-24 since 2007, the best record in baseball during that span. … Reliever Scott Downs' string of 30 1/3 consecutive scoreless interleague innings came to an end when he gave up a run in the eighth. … Third baseman Alberto Callaspo, sidelined since Sunday because of a left hamstring pull, took batting practice and ran at about 85% Friday, and he could be available to pinch hit this weekend.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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