Two weeks ago, the big kid from the little town in Texas emerged from the Angels' hotel at midday in midtown Manhattan and could not believe how much movement he saw. He looked in one direction and detected as many stoplights as contained in his hometown of Hereford, Texas. He looked the other way and spotted so many men in business attire it made him feel uneasy.
Parker Bridwell, 25, had never been to New York City before, never traveled with a major league team before. Two months before that afternoon, he was languishing in the bullpen of Baltimore's triple-A affiliate. The Angels acquired the skinny right-hander for a player to be named later or cash and assigned him to their double-A rotation in Mobile, Ala.
Six weeks later, he was in the major leagues. Highs and lows followed. On Wednesday, Bridwell supplied the best start of his career, six shutout innings essential in the Angels' 2-1 victory over Minnesota at Target Field.
"Everything's moving so fast," he said. "I just need to stay in the moment."
It was the fifth start of Bridwell's big league career, the same number he owns in triple A. He's inexperienced, and at 6 feet 4 and 185 pounds, he doesn't offer anything unusual, starting with his 92-mph fastball.
But he pitches quickly and with alacrity. After he allowed five runs in his last start, he spent the week on fundamental drills to keep himself in line. He practiced throwing a towel and did his delivery in tennis shoes to feel the lack of traction.
"Those four days were the hardest workweek I've had in my career," Bridwell said. "It feels good to feel good again."
This time, Bridwell struck out five, walked three, and scattered four hits. He had a plan to establish his fastball and then deploy his secondary offerings. So, to begin the game, he fired 12 consecutive fastballs. With his 13th pitch, he plopped in a 2-and-2 curveball to Miguel Sano, who swung and missed to end the inning.
The Twins twice approached scoring a run. With men on the corners in the second inning, Minnesota catcher Jason Castro lined a ball bound for right field. But the Angels had shifted into optimal position, and second baseman Cliff Pennington didn't need to move to catch it. In the fourth, Eddie Rosario launched a double off of the top of right-field wall, inches short of a home run.
In the Angels' half of the first, Kole Calhoun ambushed a first-pitch fastball from Ervin Santana for an upper-deck homer to right. His teammates managed little else against Santana, who completed his fourth game of the season. Besides Minnesota, no major league team has more than three.
Beginning his at-bat with runners on the corners and two outs in the sixth, Yunel Escobar protested a check-swing call to home-plate umpire Doug Eddings, who took off his mask and appeared on the verge of ejecting the Angels third baseman. He held off, only to eject Escobar after he struck out two pitches later, amid more complaints.
It was Escobar's 13th career ejection. Only one active major leaguer has been ejected more often: Atlanta's Matt Kemp.
But hidden within the strikeout was the game's most important play. On Santana's 2-and-1 pitch, the Angels executed a perfect double steal. At first, Calhoun took off for second, and Castro threw down. As soon as he did, Cameron Maybin scampered home. He didn't need to slide.
"That was the easiest stolen base I've had all year," said Maybin, who leads the American League with 25 steals.
David Hernandez replaced Bridwell and surrendered a run but stranded the potential tying run at third base. Cam Bedrosian, a local fascination because he was born to former Twin Steve Bedrosian during Minnesota's 1991 World Series run, pitched the eighth. Bud Norris handled the ninth for his first save in a month.
The Angels (44-45) are off Thursday before a weekend in Arlington, Texas, to conclude their first half. Bridwell's parents will visit their son for the series. After Sunday's finale, they'll pile into the car and head to Amarillo, the city nearest Hereford, where Bridwell got a place a couple years ago and plans to spend the All-Star break and reset for the second half.
"I figure I'll save on the plane ticket," he said.