Parker Bridwell’s pitching philosophy is simple, necessitated by reality. He does not have the extreme velocity or natural action on his pitches to strike out gobs of major league hitters. He does have a willingness to engage.
“I’m gonna throw my stuff up there and see if you can hit it,” Bridwell said.
That strategy served him fine Friday at the Rogers Centre, just as it has for most of his eight starts as an Angel. The Blue Jays made contact, the Angels’ defenders adeptly fielded the balls put into play, and the Angels recorded their seventh win in Bridwell’s eight starts, 7-2 over Toronto.
Bridwell, 25, has allowed more than two runs only twice, more than three runs only once.
“Pretty much every time out,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, “he’s pitching his game and letting hitters try to adjust to him.”
Bridwell’s earned-run average sunk to 2.83 in 54 innings. The underlying statistics surrounding his season do not portend that sort of success. Pitchers who strike out as few men as he does do not often dominate for extended periods. He has so far stranded 90% of the runners who reach base against him, and nobody has ever kept that number up for a full campaign.
Still, the Angels (50-54) are encouraged by what they’ve seen from the tenacious Texan they bought from Baltimore in April. He has become at least a person to consider for the future, which increasingly appears the focus for the final two months. The Angels remained 5 ½ games out of a wild-card position Friday.
After wasting a first-inning leadoff double, the Angels managed a two-out rally in the second. Two singles and two walks scored a run and loaded the bases for Mike Trout, who also walked. Up came Albert Pujols.
Bridwell did not allow a Blue Jay on base until there were two outs in the fourth inning. Josh Donaldson drew a walk, and Justin Smoak followed with a single off of the right-field wall. With men on the corners, Bridwell fired a fastball toward Kendrys Morales’ hands, and the ex-Angel popped it up to center field.
Bridwell retired nine of the next 10 men he faced.
“I think I got away with a couple mistakes,” he said.
The Angels led by four come the eighth, when Bridwell encountered a bit of trouble. He missed high with a 2-and-1 fastball to Darwin Barney, who walloped it for a double. After Kevin Pillar popped out, Scioscia called in reliever David Hernandez. He sensed some fatigue in his starter, noticing Bridwell’s early, errant warmups before the inning.
“There was no doubt that he was losing a little bit of his edge,” Scioscia said.
Hernandez allowed three hard-hit balls, which netted the Jays one run. It would have been more if not for C.J. Cron, who slid to stop a shot near first base.
In the top of the ninth, the Angels tacked on three more runs on four extra-base hits, including a Cron two-run homer. Cam Bedrosian, who had a rough Wednesday in Cleveland, handled the bottom of the ninth. He settled after allowing Smoak a leadoff home run.
The Angels’ catcher, Martin Maldonado, does not rest much, but he happened to sit out Bridwell’s first two games with the team. While observing those from the bench, he learned the speed at which Bridwell works. At an average of 23.2 seconds between pitches, he’s the team’s quickest starter, seven seconds faster per pitch than Angels closer Bud Norris.
“He’s got electric stuff and he works quick,” second baseman Kaleb Cowart said. “That’s the guy you want on the mound.”
After his lone poor start, Bridwell vowed to fix his inconsistencies by revisiting fundamental drills before his next outing. It worked, and he has kept it up, the towel drill reminding him to stay steady in his delivery. He said he’ll do them for the rest of his life, now.
“I wake up every day and tell myself to do whatever I have to to stay here,” Bridwell said, before adding, “in my power.”
Follow Pedro Moura on Twitter @pedromoura