The pitching staff that started the season may be in tatters, but the Los Angeles Angels have discovered some arms in the meantime.
Felix Pena was moved into the starting rotation early in the season and struggled at first, but the right-hander has continued to improve heading into his 15th start Wednesday night in the series finale against the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium.
Pena has a 2.81 ERA over his past five starts. With every appearance, he has bettered his chances of remaining part of the rotation in the future.
"I'm not going to say easy, but every time I go out there I feel better," Pena told MLB.com. "I feel physically and mentally strong. It takes work, and I'm going to continue to work hard to be able to sustain this."
The Angels (72-73) have been decimated by injuries to their pitching staff this season and used their 16th starting pitcher Tuesday night, veteran reliever Jim Johnson.
He combined with seven other relievers to hold Texas (62-83) without a hit for 7 1/3 innings before they finished off the 1-0 victory.
Los Angeles has won five of its past six, including two 1-0 wins in the past three games.
The Angels maintained the lead Tuesday night with some sterling late-inning defense from shortstop Andrelton Simmons and third baseman Kaleb Coward. The Angels haven't committed an error in nine straight games.
Pena (2-4, 4.04 ERA) didn't venture past the sixth inning in his first 12 starts but has pitched seven strong innings in his past two outings.
He allowed two runs (one earned) and five hits in a 7-3 loss to the Houston Astros on Sept. 1, and two runs and seven hits in a 5-2 win at the Chicago White Sox on Friday.
Pena, who the Angels acquired from the Chicago Cubs in October, is still seeking his first win in his eighth start at Angel Stadium, however.
The Rangers are set to counter with veteran right-hander Yovani Gallardo, who will also make his 15th start since he was recalled on June 17 to replace Doug Fister in the rotation.
Gallardo (8-4, 6.22 ERA) had a 30.86 ERA after three relief appearances with the Cincinnati Reds before they designated him for assignment. Pena elected for free agency and he's 8-4 with a 5.45 ERA with Texas.
He's seeking his first winning season since 2015.
The Angels are one of four major league teams Gallardo has never defeated in his career. He's 0-1 in five appearances (four starts) with a 5.14 in his career against Los Angeles.
He pitched well enough to beat the visiting Angels on Aug. 19 in Texas but didn't receive a decision after allowing two runs and six hits over six innings, striking out six. He left with the Rangers trailing 2-1 before they came back to win 4-2.
Like Pena, Gallardo is auditioning for a spot next season, Rangers manager Jeff Banister told MLB.com.
"We are taking a look at everybody on our team," Banister said. "We have had guys who have been here for a while and guys who were called up in September. We are trying to do the best we can to look at these guys in all situations."