Alex Meyer blanks Royals; Angels provide support

Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Alex Meyer throws to the plate during the third inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals, Saturday, June 17, 2017, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Alex Meyer throws to the plate during the third inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals, Saturday, June 17, 2017, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

ANAHEIM >> Before Alex Meyer came along, there was Garrett Richards: a hard-throwing pitcher with command issues, who some figured might be better off in the bullpen.

On the eve of Meyer’s best big league performance, in the Angels’ 9-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Saturday, he sat in the dugout with Richards and went to school.

Richards told him what pushed him over the hump.

“He just kind of simplified things,” Meyer recalled. “Trust (the fastball). Just throw it over the middle and let them hit it. I’m not saying that’s the whole key to everything, but that definitely played into it.”

Although obviously an oversimplification, the point is that Meyer’s raw stuff is good enough that he doesn’t need to worry about painting corners. He needs to worry about throwing strikes, because that puts hitters in a hole and leaves them vulnerable to his curve and slider.

On Saturday night, he did it all in impressive fashion, blanking the Royals on just two hits. He struck out nine and — most impressive — he walked just one.

“That’s one of the games you hope for,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “He bottled the stuff with the command. He was in the zone with terrific stuff all afternoon, and gave us a big lift.”

Meyer has gradually been putting the pieces together ever since the Angels got him at the trading deadline last summer. He was inconsistent in the big leagues last September. After a winter tightening up his delivery, spring training was a story of ups and downs. His initial starts this season in the big leagues were more of the same.

Now, though, he’s posted a 1.91 ERA over a six-start stretch.

“If you go back to where he was last year or where he was in spring training, he’s moved light years ahead,” Scioscia said.

Against the Royals — the team that walks the least in the majors — he even almost managed to get through a game with a zero in that column. He finally walked Lorenzo Cain in the sixth inning.

His next goals, he said, are to finally get through a game with no walks, and to finally finish the seventh inning. He has done neither.

While Meyer was dominating the Royals, he watched his teammates put together an impressive all-around offense attack, much welcomed after they’d scored three runs in the previous two games.

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Cameron Maybin led off the game with a homer, which extended his streak to 22 straight games reaching by a hit or walk.

“A blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while, and I was able to find one,” Maybin said off his fourth homer of the season.

Although Maybin has been one of the Angels’ hottest hitters, the other runs came from a few hitters who had been cold.

Danny Espinosa drove in two with a bases-loaded single in the fourth. Espinosa is still hitting just .170 but in his last 14 games he’s hitting .267.

Albert Pujols hit a two-run homer, career No. 602. It also gave him 1,8675 RBI, which passed Mel Ott to move into 10th place all-time. Pujols had been hitting .156 since the game in which he hit his 600th homer two weeks ago.

Luis Valbuena added a three-run homer in the seventh. Valbuena is batting .185.

“We need to get deeper,” Scioscia said. “We need more guys swinging the bat well. This afternoon we got some, and hopefully it will continue.”

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