Angels starter Dan Haren delivers a pitch in the second inning against the… (Ted S. Warren / Associated…)
This is why some think the Angels can be as dangerous in the postseason as San Francisco was last fall, when the pitching-rich, hitting-poor Giants won their first World Series title since 1954.
Dan Haren crafted a masterpiece Saturday night, throwing a four-hitter with seven strikeouts and no walks to lead the Angels to a 6-0 victory over the New York Yankees in Angel Stadium.
His fastball rarely touching 90 mph, Haren used a nasty split-fingered fastball and sharp-breaking cut-fastball to retire 18 batters in a row from the second through eighth innings.
The right-hander's fifth career shutout and third this season improved him to 15-8, lowered his earned-run average to 3.06 and moved the Angels to within 11/2 games of the Texas Rangers in the American League West with 17 games to play.
Haren's gem came one night after Jered Weaver limited a Yankees club that leads the American League in runs, home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and walks to one run and three hits in eight innings of a 2-1 win.
And one night before Ervin Santana, who is 11-10 with a 3.18 ERA and threw a no-hitter against Cleveland on July 27, faces the Yankees in Sunday's series finale.
No team had held the Yankees to one run or less in consecutive games since the Baltimore Orioles on Sept. 3-4, 2004. The Angels last did it Aug. 20-21, 2004.
The Angels, despite Saturday night's four-run, seventh-inning outburst that was capped by a laser of a two-run home run by .176-hitting catcher Jeff Mathis, don't often blow you away with offense.
They have only three players with 20 homers or more — Mark Trumbo (26), Torii Hunter (20) and Vernon Wells (20) — and two with more than 54 runs batted in — Trumbo (80) and Hunter (75).
But they have three No. 1-caliber starters in Weaver, Haren and Santana and just enough quality back-of-the-bullpen arms in Scott Downs and closer Jordan Walden to stifle the best hitting teams.
And if they can eke out enough offense to support that kind of pitching, they like their chances against any team in October.
"That's what people said about the Giants last year," said Haren, the first Angels pitcher to throw a four-hit-or-less shutout against the Yankees since Chuck Finley in 1995. "But we have to get there first."
Saturday night's win, combined with the Rangers' 8-7 loss to Oakland, moved them one game closer. The Angels, who have won seven of nine games, don't play Texas again until the final three games this season in Anaheim.
"Every game is basically a playoff game for us," Haren said. "It's getting to the point where we need to scoreboard watch a little. But technically, we control our own destiny. So if we play like we did the last few games, we'll be fine."
The Angels scored only once against CC Sabathia, when Mathis hit a two-out double in the second and Maicer Izturis hit a run-scoring double, but they forced him out after six innings by driving his pitch count to 119.
On came right-hander Hector Noesi, who hit Hunter with a pitch and walked Trumbo in the seventh.
Wells struck out — he stranded eight baserunners in the game — but Trout flared a run-scoring single to right, advancing Trumbo to third, Erick Aybar hit a sacrifice fly to center, and Mathis lined his third homer of the season to left. Hunter added insurance with a homer in the eighth.
"Jeff has come alive a little with the bat," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's on base a lot more. Anything we can get offensively from the catching position is great, because we need it, and we haven't gotten much from it this year."