Third baseman David Freese, who won most valuable player honors in the 2011 World Series and National League championship series for the St. Louis Cardinals, was the marquee name in last November’s trade that sent Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos to St. Louis.
But the other guy in that deal, unheralded reliever Fernando Salas, has had just as much impact, if not more, than Freese this season.
The 30-year-old right-hander entered Wednesday night’s game against the Boston Red Sox with a 4-0 record and 2.49 earned run average in 41 appearances and a string of dominance in which he has retired 23 of the last 24 batters he has faced over his last six games.
Salas was out three weeks in late June and early July because of shoulder inflammation and was demoted to triple-A Salt Lake for two weeks in late July and early August. But in nine innings of seven games since being recalled, Salas has allowed no runs, two hits and struck out 12.
“Over the long haul, if you look at what Fernando has done, he’s really been a key component of our bullpen, and especially the transformation of our bullpen and where we are now,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s a guy who’s definitely in the middle who is helping us hold leads.”
Freese was batting .239 on July 30, but he has 21 hits in 60 at-bats in 18 games since, a .350 clip that raised his average to .259 and got him moved up to the sixth spot in the order Wednesday night.
It’s not exactly a tear -- Freese has only three multi-hit games during the stretch, with six doubles, no homers and six runs batted in -- but “it’s obviously better than the first few months,” Freese said. “It’s a good time to be playing well. Every team wants everyone to get going this time of year because it’s crunch time.”
Freese has only six homers and 40 RBIs in 100 games on the season, far off his production from 2012, when he hit .293 with 20 homers and 79 RBIs for the Cardinals, and down from an injury-plagued 2013, when he hit .262 with nine homers and 60 RBIs in 138 games.
But he’s not concerned about his power numbers being down.
“I never really thought my power was up,” Freese said. “If I start worrying about power, I’m definitely a guy who will tank pretty easily. I’m not a power guy. It’s just, balls go out sometimes. That’s the best way for me to go about it. Have a good at-bat, get on base any way I can, and if the slugging goes up, it goes up.”