Dennis Springer knew to listen when Phil Niekro told him to treat the knuckleball's speed limit with respect.
"Phil told me to change speeds with it and throw it slower, slower," Springer said after he scattered eight hits to outduel Bartolo Colon and pitch the Angels to a 2-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Monday in the first game of a day-night doubleheader.
"He watched me pitch a game on television, and he thought I was throwing too hard," Springer said. "Just a little advice now and then helps."
Springer (6-4) struck out two, walked two and didn't give up an extra-base hit in his 11th career victory, fourth complete game and second career shutout. The 32-year-old right-hander met Niekro when he pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1995.
Niekro, who won 318 games, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday. He was in Boston last week with the Colorado Silver Bullets, the women's baseball team of which he is the general manager.
"The Phillies brought Phil in to work with me for three days," Springer said. "Today my No. 1 knuckleball was a real slow one. Sometimes I threw a harder one to set up the slow one. I threw minimal fastballs and changeups."
Springer had been 1-2 in his previous four starts, giving up 22 earned runs in 21 innings.
"Going into the game with a 6.31 earned-run average and facing a team like the Cleveland Indians, I probably wasn't given much of a chance," he said. "I know I'm a better pitcher than that."
The Angels, who had blown two consecutive two-run leads in the ninth inning against the Boston Red Sox, won for the 15th time in 20 games.
"It was an outstanding game by Dennis," Anaheim Manager Terry Collins said. "This team is resilient. They approach every day as a new day. They're fun to watch."
Colon (2-5) gave up nine hits, struck out six and walked one in his first major league complete game.
"I would say it's the hardest Bartolo has thrown all year," Indian Manager Mike Hargrove said.
The Angels took a 1-0 lead in the second inning. With one out, Garrett Anderson singled, stole second, advanced to third on Jim Leyritz's groundout and scored on Jack Howell's RBI single.
Anaheim made it 2-0 in the ninth on a two-out RBI single by Gary DiSarcina after Anderson and Leyritz led off the inning with back-to-back singles.
Cleveland's best chance came in the fifth inning when Matt Williams led off with a single and moved to second on Pat Borders' one-out single. Williams took third on a fly out before Springer picked off Borders at first base to end the inning.
Dave Justice took a called third strike on Springer's knuckleball with runners on first and second and two outs in the eighth.
"You can't prepare for it," Justice said of facing a knuckleballer. "All you can do is try to make good, solid contact. When you see the ball up around your eyes, it looks so easy to hit."