Angels' Shoemaker helps dull pain of Richards' injury

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Remember how the Angels were devastated by the injury to started Garrett Richards, who needs knee surgery and is done for the year?

Well, that certainly still hurts. But it will hurt a little less after Thursday night.

That's because Matt Shoemaker quickly made people forget while holding a no-hitter into the seventh inning of a 2-0 win.

''I think it's really uplifting. I think it's important. There's going to be a lot of attention on our rotation obviously with Garrett not going to be part of it,'' manager Mike Scioscia told AP after the game. ''You can't say enough about what Matty did tonight.''

Related links: Angels manager Mike Scioscia tells Josh Hamilton to deal with harsh reality
What Garrett Richards' injury means to the Angels
Athletics have seen season's biggest gamble pay off

The AL West race

As the season has progressed, both the Angels and Athletics have loaded up in an attempt to win the American League West. Entering Friday, the Angels held a two-game lead entering a weekend series against each other.

The problem is, on paper, those pitching matchups don't look great for the Angels, starting with Sonny Gray and Hector Santiago facing off in the opener then C.J. Wilson against Jon Lester and Jered Weaver against Scott Kazmir.

The reality is, however, that most of the Angels' pitchers, like Richards before his injury, have been pitching well this season, maybe even a little over their heads.

Shoemaker's performance on Thursday was just another example.

Who is Matt Shoemaker?

Even though the Major League baseball draft is a long and arduous process, Shoemaker wasn't even drafted when he left Eastern Michigan for a $10,000 signing bonus from the Angels. But he worked his way through the team's minor league system and spent the past two seasons playing for the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

He didn't exactly have good numbers there. He was 11-10 with a 5.65 ERA in 2012 and 11-13 with a 4.64 injury in 2013.

What's changed?

This year, however, he got his chance with the Angels and has pitched well, pitching out of the bullpen off and on.

Of his 22 appearances, 15 have been starts.

But, somehow, Shoemaker has been able to hold things together despite the uncertainty. And Thursday was further proof of that.

The main difference is the effectiveness of his splitter and the way he's able to hide that the diving pitch is coming.

"His split was good tonight," said Will Middlebrooks, who broke up the no-hitter with two outs in the seventh for the Red Sox. "It looked like his fastball out of his hands, so I was up there looking [for an] off-speed [pitch]."

Shoemaker is now 12-4 with a 3.56 ERA for the Angels while holding a 1.12 WHIP. He's tied for the rookie lead in wins with the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka.

At the same time, he has a 6.31 ERA in five Triple-A starts this season. Just doesn't make sense that he'd pitch more effectively in the majors than the minors, even with the tough times pitchers have in the PCL.

''Up until gametime, it was really heavy on my mind,” Shoemaker told AP afterward. “During the game, I was trying to focus on pitching which I think was good thing because that's what G does. 'It's a detrimental loss to us but we're all going to fight hard to pick him up and we're just going to keep getting stronger from it.''

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MLB American League
Oakland Athletics
Los Angeles Angels

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