ANAHEIM (AP) — After Nick Tropeano shut down the Oakland Athletics in a dazzling debut, three relievers escaped big jams with the help of some stellar defense.
When the Los Angeles Angels play this well otherwise, one hit is plenty.
Tropeano pitched five-hit ball into the seventh inning, and Kole Calhoun’s two-run homer was the Angels’ only hit in a 2-0 victory Thursday night.
Calhoun homered in the third, and four pitchers combined on an eight-hit shutout that allowed the Angels to salvage a split a four-game series with their upstate AL West rivals. The Angels didn’t have a baserunner after the third inning, but won with just one hit for the third time in franchise history, the first since June 16, 1986.
“Two runs, but that’s all the pitching staff needed,” Calhoun said. “That’s huge for us. Today is really all about the pitching staff.”
Tropeano (1-0) was impressive in a spot start, yielding one walk and striking out five less than 48 hours after learning he was headed to the majors. Given the chance in Anaheim by C.J. Wilson’s stiff elbow and Matt Shoemaker’s bereavement leave, Tropeano showed off his nasty changeup and improved as the game went along, leaving to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick’s leadoff single in the seventh.
“I was obviously ecstatic to know I’m pitching in the big leagues, at the Big A, but I think you’ve just got to approach it like any other start,” Tropeano said. “I started pounding that first strike, and it opened things up for me.”
He was nearly matched by Jesse Chavez (0-1), who gave up one hit and three walks in six innings during his first start of the season.
But that hit was costly: Calhoun drove a one-out pitch to right after Drew Butera reached on a throwing error.
“We held on,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “They gave us a little break with the error, Kole connected, and that was about it. ... I’ve seen us lose on a no-hitter. Winning on a one-hitter was a lot better.”
Fernando Salas escaped a jam with two runners on in the seventh, and Joe Smith narrowly got out of the eighth when Calhoun tracked down Reddick’s drive to the right-field wall with two on.
Huston Street pitched the ninth for his fifth save, though he allowed his first baserunner of the season on Marcus Semien’s two-out infield single. Collin Cowgill made a sprinting catch in foul territory to end a frustrating day for Oakland, which went 5-5 on its road trip.
Chavez began the season in Oakland’s bullpen, but largely mowed down the Angels in his return to the rotation. After the rocky third that included two walks, he retired his final nine batters.
“To give up one hit on a moment’s notice to make a start, I don’t know how you can ask much more than that,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “I can’t remember the last time we got beat by one hit.”
Oakland hadn’t lost a game while giving up only one hit since April 14, 1992, at Kansas City.
Scioscia isn’t sure what the Angels will do with Tropeano after his second major-league victory, since their rotation is full. Los Angeles traded backup catcher Hank Conger to the Astros last winter to get Tropeano, who made four major-league starts last September. The Long Island native competed for the fifth spot in the Angels’ rotation in spring training, but Hector Santiago won the spot. “We’ve got a lot of guys in the bullpen that are tired, so we’ll look where everybody is,” Scioscia said.
Athletics: Chavez got the start in place of Jesse Hahn, who has a blister. ... Ben Zobrist fouled out to end the game, also ending his 18-game hitting streak against the Angels. He didn’t play in the first three games after getting a cortisone shot in his left knee.
Angels: Wilson’s scheduled start was pushed to Saturday. The left-hander doesn’t expect his elbow to be a problem this weekend or long-term.
Athletics: Scott Kazmir takes the mound when Oakland opens a weekend series at the Coliseum against Dallas Keuchel and Houston.
Angels: Garrett Richards makes his second start of his comeback from surgery when the Angels open a three-game home series against the Texas Rangers.