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Nick Tropeano delivers again as Albert Pujols blasts two-run homer in Angels’ 2-0 win

Angels starting pitcher Nick Tropeano (35) delivers in the second inning against the Texas Rangers.

Angels starting pitcher Nick Tropeano (35) delivers in the second inning against the Texas Rangers.

(Jim Cowsert / Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

For the Angels, May 6 was a black Friday indeed.

Their ace, Garrett Richards, hit the disabled list. The depth chart on their team website listed three starting pitchers.

Little more than two weeks later, the Angels actually have depth. C.J. Wilson is on his way back. Tim Lincecum is coming soon. The Angels will have to clear two arms out of their suddenly productive starting rotation, not that Nick Tropeano is sweating it.

“Do you think I’m on the hill thinking about Tim Lincecum and C.J. Wilson?” Tropeano said. “No.”

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Nor should he be, given the excellence he has delivered lately. Tropeano recorded 20 of the Angels’ 27 outs in a 2-0 victory over the Texas Rangers on Monday, the Angels’ eighth win in their last 11 games.

Tropeano lowered his earned-run average to 2.86, the best among the Angels’ current starting five. He is one of 13 American League starters with an ERA under 3.00. He ranks immediately behind the Rangers’ decorated and well-compensated ace, Cole Hamels, whose ERA is 2.83.

“I’m not a big numbers guy,” Tropeano said. “I’m trying to run with this.”

Mike Trout and Albert Pujols gave him two runs and he took it from there. With two out in the third inning, Trout doubled and Pujols homered, a two-run shot that was the 569th of his career, tying Rafael Palmeiro for 12th on the all-time list.

“At the end of my career, I can look back,” Pujols said. “Right now, I’m just trying to produce and help the team win.”

Trout, who had two hits, is batting .325. Pujols is batting .228, but .340 in his last 12 games.

When he starts at first base, as he did on Monday, Pujols is batting .313, with four home runs in 13 games.

When he starts at designated hitter, he is batting .195, with five home runs in 32 games.

“I don’t think about that,” Pujols said. “I still prepare the same way, whether I’m DH’ing or playing first base.”

In past years, Pujols has expressed his preference to play first base. He now has reconciled himself to increasing amounts of DH duty. He is 36, and the Angels need his bat in the lineup most of all.

“It’s not about me,” he said. “It’s about the ballclub.”

Said Angels Manager Mike Scioscia: “When he plays first base … he definitely feels more comfortable. If he pushes too much at first base, no matter how comfortable he feels, he might not be as strong in the batter’s box as he needs to be. That’s important.”

So is the length the Angels’ rotation is starting to provide.

“We can’t live with five-inning starts from our starters,” Scioscia said.

In his first seven starts this season, Tropeano never completed six innings. He has done so in each of his last two, giving up one run in 132/3 innings.

Matt Shoemaker pitched a season-high 71/3 innings in his last start, striking out 12 without giving up a run.

Jered Weaver has completed seven innings in consecutive starts.

Hector Santiago, with the lowest ERA among the starters other than Tropeano, probably is not going anywhere when Wilson and Lincecum are ready.

Newcomer Jhoulys Chacin, who starts Tuesday, has had two starts with the Angels — one good, one not so good.

“We’re all capable of pitching here,” Tropeano said. “We know it. It kind of fuels us. We fuel each other.”

Said Scioscia: “I don’t think these guys need competition for positions to drive them. Some guys are just now hitting stride.”

For the Angels, though, this is the best news of all: They’re trying to figure out how to cut two arms out of their rotation, rather than find two to complete it.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com


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