Pitcher Julio Valera is creating a pleasant problem for Angel Manager Buck Rodgers, who might find himself with too many qualified candidates for the starting rotation.
Valera, the Angels' fifth and least-used starter, recorded the first complete game and shutout of his major league career Thursday, holding the New York Yankees to five hits in a 6-0 Angel victory at Anaheim Stadium. In only his third start since being acquired from the New York Mets on April 12, Valera (2-1) struck out three and walked only one before 22,552.
Valera, who has filled in for Chuck Finley, Mark Langston and Don Robinson, received plenty of help from the Angels' offense Thursday. His teammates got to Yankee starter Scott Sanderson (2-2) early and often, chasing him in the seventh inning. Junior Felix drove in two runs to increase his league-leading total to 26, and Mike Fitzgerald drove in two, one on a home run and another on a perfectly executed hit-and-run single through the left side against reliever Lee Guetterman in the eighth.
Fitzgerald's home run was his third of the season, all in his last 13 at-bats.
The Angels made the game a rout in the eighth, on Fitzgerald's single and a sacrifice fly by Gary DiSarcina.
The shutout was the second for the Angels' pitching staff, following the combined shutout pitched by Jim Abbott and Bryan Harvey April 13 at Texas. It was the first shutout by an Angel rookie since Abbott in 1989.
The loss was the third in a row for the Yankees, who are 15-13. The Angels, who have won their last three home games, are also 15-13.
After Valera pitched out of difficulty in the top of the first inning, the Angels rewarded him by scoring twice in the bottom of the inning.
Valera got into trouble when he gave up consecutive one-out singles to Don Mattingly and Roberto Kelly. Mel Hall flied to center, allowing Mattingly to tag and take third, but Matt Nokes popped to Gary Gaetti in foul territory to end that threat.
The Angels wasted little time in getting to Sanderson. Luis Polonia led off by lining Sanderson's 0-and-1 pitch into the right-field corner. Polonia never hesitated, and made it to third with a head-first slide. The triple was his first of the season.
Von Hayes followed with a walk, but he was forced at second by Felix as Polonia scored. Hubie Brooks then ended an 0-for-12 drought by drilling a 2-and-2 pitch to left-center for a double, scoring Felix.
Fitzgerald's home run, a line shot to left, increased the Angels' lead to 3-0.
Sanderson held off another Angel threat in the third. Hayes led off with a single to right, and after Felix flied out, Brooks hit a comebacker to Sanderson for what could have been a double play. But second baseman Pat Kelly dropped the throw, putting runners on first and second. Responding to the challenge, Sanderson got Lee Stevens to strike out swinging and threw a third strike past Gaetti.
Valera retired the Yankees in order in the second, third and sixth innings, missing that distinction in the fourth inning because of a leadoff walk to Kelly. A double play enabled him to get out of that inning without trouble.
A one-out double by Randy Velarde posed a problem for Valera in the fifth. Velarde got to third on a grounder to the right side that Valera deflected, but Kelly flied to right for the third out.
The Angels also got a runner to third, when Rene Gonzales led off with a single, took second on a grounder and stole third. But Polonia struck out swinging.
The Angel bullpen became active for the first time in the seventh, after Hall led off with an infield hit. But Valera silenced the Yankees, getting Nokes and Kevin Maas on fly balls to left and Velarde on a called third strike.
The Angels made it 4-0 in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Felix.