Angels starter Joel Pineiro, who struggled this year, is in the final year… (Kelvin Kuo / US Presswire )
If this was Joel Pineiro's last game as an Angel, he made it a memorable one, giving up three hits in 61/3 scoreless innings, striking out four and walking none in an eventual 6-5 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.
Pineiro is in the final season of a two-year, $16-million contract, and he appears to have little chance of returning to the Angels, who have cheaper and equally attractive rotation alternatives in Jerome Williams, who is 4-0 with a 2.95 earned-run average and will be eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter, and rookies Garrett Richards and Tyler Chatwood.
But the 32-year-old right-hander at least gave the Angels something to ponder Sunday, needing only 77 pitches against Oakland. He had been 0-3 with a 10.26 ERA in four previous starts this season against the Athletics.
"Definitely, yeah, right away," Pineiro said, when asked whether he thought about this being his last game with the Angels. "Not that I want it to be, but you're just being realistic.
"Beyond that, you've just got to worry about having a good game for the team. We needed a win, so it wasn't like, 'Oh, OK, this is my last pitch as an Angel,' or anything like that."
Pineiro, whose late-July struggles got him demoted to the bullpen, retired the first 13 batters Sunday before giving up an infield single to David DeJesus, who reached on a grounder off the pitcher's leg.
DeJesus was erased on Scott Sizemore's double-play grounder, and Pineiro retired the next four batters before giving up one-out singles to Coco Crisp and Hideki Matsui and getting pulled in the seventh.
Pineiro closed the season with a 7-7 record and 5.13 ERA and won two of his last four starts. When he exited in the seventh, he received a warm ovation from the Angel Stadium crowd.
"The past couple of games have been better for me," Pineiro said. "You've got to stay positive. One thing I wanted to do is to finish strong, and that's what I did."
You can almost hear a collective groan from Angels fans every time Jeff Mathis, who is hitting .176 with three homers and 22 runs batted in, is in the lineup. They think switch-hitting rookie Hank Conger would be a better option.
But Mathis, who went hitless in three at-bats Sunday, is clearly the better defender of the two, and it's not as if Conger has been the second coming of Johnny Bench; he's batting .214 with six homers and 19 RBIs in 58 games.
"No catcher is lighting it up offensively," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "It's better to get Jeff's defensive presence in there now and make any moves we need to later in the game."
Who's on first?
For the second straight game, first baseman Mark Trumbo was removed in the seventh inning because of right ankle discomfort and replaced by Efren Navarro.
Trumbo said he will get X-rays on the ankle, which has bothered him off and on for about a month, on Monday, but he has no intention of coming out of the lineup while the Angels are still in playoff contention.