Six years ago, the Washington Nationals selected right-hander Alex Meyer and outfielder Brian Goodwin in the first round of the MLB draft. The college juniors shared the same agent, traveled to Alabama together to undergo pre-signing physicals with the famed Dr. James Andrews, and were introduced together at Nationals Park. They each agreed to contracts with Washington in the final minutes before the annual deadline.
A year later, the Nationals traded away Meyer, but the two men kept in touch as they ascended the minor league ranks. They met for breakfast Wednesday at a local favorite, the Filling Station Cafe. After their meal, Meyer picked up the check.
Several hours later at Angel Stadium, Goodwin knocked a double down the right-field line to spoil Meyer’s bid for a no-hitter with two outs in the sixth inning. It proved Washington’s only hit in the Angels’ 7-0 thrashing, as Meyer dominated his original team in a seven-inning, seven-strikeout performance.
“I’ll have to talk to him about that,” Meyer said.
Meyer carried a perfect game into the fifth, when Anthony Rendon nixed it with a four-pitch walk, one of only two three-ball counts Meyer had all evening. Rendon too was a Washington first-rounder in 2011. He was still sleeping when his friends breakfasted, Meyer said.
The Angels (47-50) are three games out of playoff position. Just when the industry starts to assume they will be sellers at the July 31 trade deadline, the Angels pull themselves back into the fray. Sixty-five games remain on their schedule, but only nine until the deadline, complicating the decision-making process for general manager Billy Eppler.
If the team dipped in one direction or the other, action would be more obvious. But week after week, they remain in the vicinity of .500.
For Wednesday’s game, the Angels promoted Meyer from triple A, where he had languished since the All-Star break, making just one start. Back in the big leagues to stay awhile, he put together the best start of his career. The seven innings he completed were a career high, and he required only 88 pitches. He had walked more than six men per nine innings so far this season, but he walked only Rendon on Wednesday.
Meyer and catcher Martin Maldonado planned to utilize his two-seam fastball. Typically, the 6-foot-9 Meyer relies on his four-seamer, which he can throw 97 mph and command more reliably. But he found an adequate grasp of the darting two-seamer in his pregame bullpen session and let it loose 33 times for 21 strikes. He pitched much differently than when Washington had last seen him.
“I guess he looks a little more crafty now,” Goodwin said. “He’s definitely able to do more with the ball, be more precise with it.”
Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez was wild to begin the game. In the first inning, Yunel Escobar and Albert Pujols singled around a Mike Trout walk, netting one run. After an Andrelton Simmons sacrifice fly scored a second run, Gonzalez settled.
Come the sixth, his control again faltered. Pujols walked and Cron clubbed a home run some 461 feet. He came inches from landing the baseball inside the massive, sponsored paint can beyond the left-center wall. In four seasons, no one has completed the feat, which would earn the Angels’ foundation a $1-million donation.
The Angels added three runs against Joe Blanton, one of the more despised figures to call this ballpark home in recent seasons. The 2013 free-agent disaster allowed singles to Escobar and Ben Revere before Trout stepped to the plate.
The center fielder took the count to 2-and-2 and received a plum pitch, a 91-mph fastball over the exact center of the strike zone. He kicked his leg and calmly whipped his bat to meet the ball, which soared 132 feet into the air and 407 feet from home plate for a two-run homer.
That capped the club’s scoring. The Angels had not mustered more than five runs in a game since June 24. They had not won a game by a margin so substantive since June 17.
Mostly, they exited the ballpark Wednesday night buoyed by Meyer’s encouraging performance. Their hitters have not had sustained success this season, but they have also lacked a pitcher capable of dominance. If the 27-year-old can command his easy velocity and sharp breaking ball more consistently in the second half, the Angels can dream easier.
“If he keeps throwing like that,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said, “maybe they’ve found something.”
As expected, the Angels recalled outfielder Shane Robinson from triple-A Salt Lake before Wednesday’s game and placed Cameron Maybin on the disabled list with a right knee sprain suffered Tuesday. To make room for Meyer, they optioned reliever Eduardo Paredes to Salt Lake. … Right-hander Garrett Richards has stretched his throwing out to 90 feet. He remains hopeful of pitching this season.
Follow Pedro Moura on Twitter @pedromoura