The Angels will take their silver linings where they can, and in a season in which their rotation has been ravaged by injuries and the July 1 death of Tyler Skaggs, they may have found one in Dillon Peters.
The 27-year-old left-hander, acquired from Miami last November, has emerged as a potential 2020 rotation candidate with a string of solid starts that included a five-inning, two-run, five-hit effort in Tuesday night’s 3-2 win over the Oakland Athletics in Angel Stadium.
“He’s opened eyes for sure,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “We think he has the ability to pitch up here. He’s shown that. I think going into the off-season, he’s a guy you consider in the mix.”
Peters survived a 27-pitch first inning in which he issued a leadoff walk to Marcus Semien; got Matt Chapman to ground into a fielder’s choice, with shortstop David Fletcher making a diving back-hand stop and throwing to second; and struck out Matt Olson and Mark Canha.
Mixing a fastball that averaged 90.7 mph with a changeup and curve, Peters gave up a single in a scoreless second, retired the side in order in the third and gave up a two-run homer to Khris Davis in the fourth.
Oakland, which is a half-game ahead of Tampa Bay and a game ahead of Cleveland in a three-way battle for the two American League wild-card spots, put two on with one out in the fifth, but Peters got Chapman to ground into a fielder’s choice and Olson to fly to right to end the inning.
“Same thing we’ve been preaching all year — fastballs up, breaking balls down, working off tunneling and executing pitches,” said Peters, who struck out three and walked one Tuesday night. “That’s pitching every five days no matter who’re facing or how good you’re going.
“It’s just exploiting strengths and weaknesses. Right now, that’s part of it. Just commanding areas where guys can’t hit the ball is propelling me to have a little more success in my outings.”
Peters opened the season at triple-A Salt Lake. He was recalled in mid-April and made three relief appearances before being sent back down. He made one appearance as “bulk” pitcher for the Angels on June 8 and was recalled for good in late-July.
Peters is 4-3 with a 4.72 ERA in 16 games, 11 of them starts. He has struggled at times with command, striking out 53 and walking 24 in 68 2/3 innings, and he has given up 15 homers, but has arguably been the team’s most consistent starter down the stretch.
“I assumed I would get an opportunity at some point in the year,” Peters said. “I’m fortunate enough to have a few things go my way and a few catchers calling some good games.
“I really enjoy going out there and competing and winning baseball games, so if I opened up some eyes in return for going out there and competing every day, that’s great. But there’s always room for improvement and becoming a better overall player, which is obviously the end goal and helps the ballclub win.”
A three-run rally in the fifth inning put Peters in line for the win Tuesday night. Taylor Ward and Matt Thaiss opened the inning with singles, and Fletcher hit a one-out RBI single to center, his third hit of the game.
Brian Goodwin dunked a bloop RBI double between diving third baseman Chapman and left fielder Chad Pinerto, and Albert Pujols hit a sacrifice fly to give the Angels a 3-2 lead.
Angels relievers Noe Ramirez, Adalberto Mejia, Ty Buttrey and Hansel Robles combined for four scoreless, one-hit innings, with Robles allowing one check-swing single in a scoreless ninth to convert his 23rd save and increase his scoreless streak to 17 1/3 innings in 15 games since Aug. 17.
The Angels were eliminated from playoff contention in early September, but with two more games against the A’s, they could impact the wild-card race.
“We’re just trying to win,” Ausmus said of playing the spoiler role. “This whole month of September, other than the White Sox, I think we’re playing teams that are contending. I don’t know that it motivates you anymore. Your motivation is to go out and perform and win the game regardless of who you are playing.”