My Handsome Matthew David Shoemaker,
You never stop surprising me. After you signed with the Los Angeles Angels in 2008, our paths never crossed. How could they? You, undrafted out of Eastern Michigan, and me, only paying attention to real baseball prospects. But this year. Oh, Matty, this year. The stars brought us together.
Somehow you broke Spring Training and made the Angelsâ€™ 25-man roster. You pitched serviceably out of the bullpen, fulfilling the role of a versatile long man. Honestly, I didnâ€™t expect you to last. In May, however, you returned. In my birthday month, no less! I just love how you knew that. Anyway, you returned, and you returned for good. Your boss, Mike Scioscia, handed you some starts once Hector Santiago shit the bed and lost his spot in the rotation.
Rotoworld treated you like another one of their hussies.
But you showed them. And me, darling. You caught my interest. But I kept my distance. I didnâ€™t think it could last. In June I swooned as you struck out a career high 10 against the Indians. You aroused my faith. So much that the stinker you tossed against the Kansas City Royals on June 27 (4 IP, 11 H, 8 ER) did little to dissuade me.
I never told you this, my man stallion, but what I saw in you, that thing that gave me hope, was your strikeouts. We all know youâ€™re not a bombshell. Radar guns arenâ€™t shorting out from excitement when you step on the mound. You werenâ€™t the kind of guy that was ever going to make the cover of Baseball America. But you figured out how to succeed with the tools that God gave you.
How does one, armed with a measily 90-mph fastball, manage to strike out more than a batter per inning pitched? Itâ€™s because you know how to use your tools.
Your splitter makes me tremble inside. But itâ€™s your ability to hit the right spots with five pitches (splitter, four-seam fastball, two-seamer, slider and knuckle curve) that puts these batters to bed to the tune of 8.86 whiffs per nine innings.
Everything changed for me on August 9. Thatâ€™s the date I fell in love. TheÂ Man CrushÂ was born. It was at home, in Anaheim, and you guys were hosting the Boston Redsox. I was laying in bed. Cemented in a 4-4 tie in the 17th inning, you entered the game in relief. Just three days before you pitched well in a 2-1 loss to the Dodgers (6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 5 K). You twirled three perfect innings with four strikeouts until Albert Pujolsâ€™s walk-off home run ended the marathon and sent your aching arm to chill in a bucket of ice until the clubs in Downtown Santa Ana turned the lights on and made the hood rats go home.
I bragged about you to my friends. I wish I couldâ€™ve massaged that right shoulder of yours.
/me hands American League Western Division title to @athletics Oakland A’s on a silver platter. And then shoves platter up their ASSES.
â€” Seth Tearz (@SethTearz) August 21, 2014
My honey, that is when you stole my heart. To pitch that long in relief â€“ that well â€“ on short rest was heroic. Gutsy. And thrilling. But you werenâ€™t done.
When super model Garrett Richards tore up his August 20, many considered the Angelsâ€™ World Series dreams in jeopardy. Even after an 8-3 victory in that game, the clubhouse was silent. No one celebrated the victory. Everyone was crushed about losing Richards.
Baseball media based the rotation. They wondered whether you and your buddies could keep the Angels in a pennant race without the bombshell. That very next night you showed them. At Fenway Park you entered the seventh with a no-hitter until theÂ â€śbuttholeâ€ťÂ Will Middlebrooks ripped a double down the left field line. You finished the 2-0 victory with 7.2 IP, that one hit, just one walk and nine strike outs.
You lifted the Angels when they needed it the most, my precious.Â YouÂ ooze humility, grace and class. And theyÂ needed youÂ again last nightÂ against the Miami Marlins. That trashy Wade LeBlanc, filling in for Richards Monday, was bombed in a 7-1 drubbing.
My beloved, I watched you masterfully work your tools last nightÂ fromÂ suites behind home plate. I know you caught myÂ Â fluttering baby blues. Seven innings, two hits, two walks, six strikeouts and back in first place, alone. 13-4, 3.33 ERA, 1.08 WHIP. Now that’s what I call beautiful.