Angels' acquisition of closer was Street smart

Angels' acquisition of closer was Street smart
Angels closer Huston Street delivers a pitch during a win over the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday. Street has given the Angels an extra dose of confidence as they continue on their second-half push to win the AL West division title. (Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

The closer didn't close Monday night. Didn't need to.

The new guy on the Angels roster, who has made the Angels roster a much better one, got a rare restful night at Dodger Stadium, thanks to Garrett Richards' dazzling, complete-game five-hitter.

Huston Street's night off meant that the Angels handled the Dodgers handily in the first game of this four-game Freeway Series. A 5-0 win is exactly that.

Street is a fireman, not a crossing guard. When he arrives, the situation is dire. None of that this time out.


That he is even in an Angels uniform and lurking in the bullpen is both a comfort to the Angels and a headache to the guys in the other dugout. Angels Manager Mike Scioscia articulated that before the game.


"He's like the thief who quietly picks your pocket without any fanfare," Scioscia said. "The guys in the other dugout are sitting there, watching, saying that's too easy. You get the feeling that when they see him, they start thinking, game over."

The Dodgers might have been thinking that early Monday night. The game was effectively over after the first inning, and they didn't even get a glimpse of Street.

About the only fun Dodgers fans had at their ballpark this night was booing Mike Trout, apparently because he is good and doesn't wear a blue uniform. Go figure.

Angels fans expect to get much more than a glimpse of Street, as the season works it way toward the playoffs. Street, acquired from the non-contending Padres on July 18, says he's ready.

"This is great," he said. "I know going into August, we have a chance."

Always, the teams with the best chance have that exclamation point coming out of the bullpen, that nearly untouchable baffler. When bonfires break out, the closer comes in and stomps on it. In the Angels' playoff run, where there's smoke, there will be Huston Street.

There's a great deal more to the 31-year-old than a strong right arm and unhittable pitches. The DNA is striking, so to speak.

He is the son of James Street, the University of Texas quarterback of the late 1960s, who took his team to 20 straight victories as a starter and beat Notre Dame in the legendary 1970 New Year's Day Cotton Bowl Classic.

"An incredible man, and incredible father," Street says. "He was a perfect coach, a great teacher."

Then he tells a story about one of the lessons.

"I was 10. It was my first pitching start ever. The regular umps didn't show up, so they asked my dad to work the plate.

"My first pitch was right down the middle. He says ball one. Second pitch and third pitch, same thing. I may have been only 10 years old, but I know a strike when I throw one.

"Then I throw the fourth pitch down the middle. He calls it a ball. I throw my glove down and he throws me out of the game.

"On the way home in the car, we had lesson time. We talked about how things aren't always going to work out in life, how things aren't always fair."

Years later, when asked about the incident, James Street said he knew the pitches were all strikes.

"Remember, this was a man who started talking to me about the idea of an 0-2 pitch when I was 9 years old," Huston Street says. "When we talked about golf, we talked about hitting a seven-iron before we even started trying to hit a driver."

James Street, a prominent Texas businessman, had a great visit with his son, Huston, last September in San Francisco, where the Padres were playing.

"It was kind of funny," Street said, "because he was always such a typical dad, listening to me and my brothers, giving advice as we needed it. But this time, he told me all about how the family business was going, what his plans were."

Two days later, Huston Street got a call from one of his brothers. James had died of a heart attack at 65.

"We kind of laugh now as a family," Street says. "He was always a step ahead of everything, always ready for what was next. We wonder if he knew."

Most of the time, in his college and pro career, Street has worn his father's college jersey number, No. 16. He won the American League rookie-of-the-year award in 2005 with the Oakland Athletics, a year after the A's had drafted him, wearing No. 20.

But when the Angels traded for him, they knew his feelings for the No. 16 and immediately texted him. He responded that he'd love to have No. 16, if possible.

Catcher Hank Conger wore that number and gave it up immediately for No. 24.

"When I arrived, the No. 16 was hanging in my locker," Street said. "That meant a lot to me. I will treat Hank with something special."

He can treat Angels fans with more saves. So far, he has had six opportunities and saved all six. For the season, he has 30 of 31. For his career, he has 264 of 306, including 115 of 123 since 2011. That's the best mark among all relievers over that span.

Among the axioms Street lives by is "Never take a lazy step."

Except if Richards is making the Dodgers look helpless. Then, a quiet night with a few loosening-up-in-the-bullpen tosses in the ninth is just fine.