Jason Vargas held the American League West champion Oakland Athletics… (Chris Carlson / Associated…)
Jason Vargas’ four-hit shutout in a 3-0 win over the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night, a game in which the Angels left-hander worked quickly, efficiently and with pinpoint precision, made for an enjoyable evening for catcher Hank Conger.
“It’s fun when you can sit back behind the plate, put your glove out there and know he’s going to hit the target,” Conger said of Vargas, who struck out five, walked one and threw 110 pitches, 68 for strikes. “He changed speeds really well, moved the ball in and out and really did a good job.”
Vargas didn’t overpower the American League West-winning A’s with his fastball, which tops out at 88 mph, but he kept them off balance with an excellent changeup and breaking ball.
“He can give you three or four looks on each count,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “The command and arm speed of his changeup is exceptional, but he also has a heck of an angle on his fastball away and got it into good spots, and he mixed his breaking ball in. He knows what he’s doing out there.”
Vargas faced only two batters over the maximum and was aided by some fine defense. The Angels turned two double plays, center fielder Josh Hamilton threw out Alberto Callaspo trying to stretch a single into a double in the eighth, and first baseman Mark Trumbo made a diving stop of Josh Reddick’s grounder down the line to start the ninth.
Vargas, who missed two months from mid-June to mid-August because of a blood clot in his armpit, which was surgically removed, is 9-7 with a 4.01 earned-run average in 23 starts. He is scheduled to pitch the season finale at Texas on Sunday and will be a free agent this winter.
Asked if he’d like to return to the Angels, Vargas said, “Yeah, that would be ideal, but we have a few more games to play. We’ll figure it all out.”
Though Vargas is considered a No. 3 or 4 starter, at best, he could still command a deal of three or four years with an average annual value of $11 million or more. The Angels hoped to retain free-agent pitcher Zack Greinke last winter but lost him to the Dodgers, who gave the right-hander a six-year, $147-million deal.
“Free agency gets complicated,” Scioscia said. “There’s no doubt he gave our rotation a boost after he came back from that injury, and we’d love to see him in an Angels uniform next year. But we’ve been though this before. You just don’t know how free agency is going to work out.”
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