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Angels' Jason Vargas baffles White Sox in 6-2 victory

Left-hander gives up four hits over seven scoreless innings to win his third consecutive game. Erick Aybar drives in three runs.

May 19, 2013|By Kevin Baxter
  • Angels' Jason Vargas pitches to the Chicago White Sox in the first inning.
Angels' Jason Vargas pitches to the Chicago White Sox in the first… (Reed Saxon / Associated…)

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Angels pitcher Jason Vargas had a harder time controlling his preschool-age son Joshua than he did controlling the Chicago White Sox on Sunday, which is a good sign for the Angels and Joshua.

Because if Vargas keeps pitching as he has the last three weeks, culminating in a 6-2 victory over the White Sox, the team may finally be able to stop searching for a top-of-the-rotation ace to replace the injured Jered Weaver. And that means more happy postgame clubhouses for the rambunctious Joshua to romp through.

"He's been our most consistent pitcher," Manager Mike Scioscia said of Vargas, who shut out the White Sox and gave up four hits over seven innings.

BOX SCORE: Angels 6, Chicago White Sox 2

"Early [in the season] there's no doubt his ball was up a little bit and he was having a little trouble getting into the zones he wanted to. Ever since he got comfortable, he's been lights out."

When the lights were on, though, it was ugly.

Vargas failed to get out of the sixth inning in any of his first three starts, giving up 27 hits in 142/3 innings and posting a 6.75 earned-run average. After the final installment in that horror trilogy, when the Minnesota Twins got nine hits in the space of 10 outs, the left-hander had a long talk with pitching coach Mike Butcher.

Neither will say what they discussed, but the results speak for themselves. In his last five games, Vargas (3-3) has averaged more than seven innings per outing, winning three consecutive decisions and posting a 2.21 ERA.

"I didn't do anything," Butcher said. "He's just commanding counts better, he's executing pitches. And consequently the outcome's been very good."

Vargas has a different theory.

"April's over, right?" he said.

Simply flipping a calendar page has worked for Vargas. In the last five years, he's 11-4 with a 2.79 ERA in May, by far his best month of the season.

There was certainly no trace Sunday of the Vargas from April, with Chicago getting a runner as far as second only twice in his seven innings. And his batterymate, Chris Iannetta, sparked the offense, starting the Angels' first rally with a leadoff walk then driving in a run with a bases-loaded walk, his sixth in seven plate appearances, an inning later.

Erick Aybar also had a big game, driving in three runs with a double and a bases-loaded walk.

Now Scioscia is hoping that Vargas' turnaround will help the team make its own U-turn. The Angels go into Monday's day off having won consecutive home games for the first time in four weeks. Plus the 18 runs they scored over the weekend equals their best two-game total of the season and by the end of the month they could welcome four pitchers, including Weaver, back from the disabled list.

"There's no doubt we're going to get better," Scioscia said. "We've got a lot of things on the horizon that are going to make us deeper in some important areas. In the meanwhile, we need to go out there and do what we did today: get leads and hold them and win games."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Twitter: @kbaxter11

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