Matt Shoemaker might be a rookie, but he's shown the poise of a veteran during his successful first full season.
Riding a 16 2-3-inning scoreless stretch, the right-hander tries to win a fourth straight start Sunday and help the Los Angeles Angels sweep a four-game home set from the Oakland Athletics, who are reeling but acquired Chicago White Sox slugger Adam Dunn earlier in the day.
Shoemaker (13-4, 3.33 ERA), who turns 28 late next month and had one appearance prior to this year, has been a surprisingly big reason Los Angeles (82-53) has the best record in the majors and owns a four-game division lead over Oakland atop the AL West. He's gone 11-3 with a 3.19 ERA in 16 starts, including 5-1 with a 1.41 ERA in his last six.
"You see the beard and you think he's 35 and he's a vet, but he's really held his own and his composure is beyond his years," catcher Hank Conger said.
Starting with a three-inning relief stint in the 5-4, 19-inning victory over Boston on Aug. 9, Shoemaker has won four straight decisions.
He took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Red Sox on Aug. 21 and allowed only one hit in 7 2-3 innings of 2-0 victory. Shoemaker then scattered two hits in seven scoreless innings of an 8-2 victory over Miami on Tuesday.
He'll have the chance to tie the franchise rookie record for victories, established by Dean Chance (1962) and matched by Marcelino Lopez (1965) and Frank Tanana (1974).
"It's confidence from consistent hard work,' said Shoemaker, who is the first undrafted, American-born rookie to win at least 13 games since John Montefusco won 15 for the Giants in 1975.
"If you're going to feel like you belong, you want to keep getting better each day and be successful," he told MLB's official website.
Though Shoemaker will make his first start against Oakland (78-57), he retired the only batter he faced during a 7-1 loss to the A's on June 16.
Oakland, which led the West by four games over Los Angeles on Aug. 9, has dropped 13 of 19 while the Angels have won 14 of 18.
The Angels extended their winning streak to five games by beating the A's 2-0 on Saturday. Oakland was held to three hits after totaling five in Friday's 4-0 defeat.
The A's haven't been shut out by the same opponent in three straight games since Detroit did so in July 1949 when the franchise was in Philadelphia, but adding Dunn for minor league pitcher Nolan Sanburn could help them end their hitting woes. Though Dunn has often struggled in four seasons in Chicago, he has 460 career home runs - 95 of which have come in the past three years.
He is batting .220 with 20 homers and 54 RBIs this season.
Los Angeles last blanked the same foe in three consecutive games against Cleveland in July 1965.
With two hits and an RBI on Saturday, the Angels' Erick Aybar is batting .473 during a 15-game hitting streak. He's hit .439 with seven RBIs in his last 11 against the A's.
Aybar is 5 for 7 with two doubles against Scott Kazmir (14-6, 3.08), who doesn't have to wait long for another shot at the Angels after he allowed seven runs and 10 hits in three innings of a 9-4 loss last Sunday.
"You've got to give him a little bit of a break the way he's pitched for us," manager Bob Melvin said. "It's just a rough one."
Though the left-hander has allowed 12 runs and 16 hits over six innings while losing two straight against the Angels, he's 2-1 with a 2.22 ERA in his last four road starts overall.
Josh Donaldson is 10 for 20 while the A's are 2-4 on a seven-game trip.
The Associated Press News Service
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