ANAHEIM, Calif. – A crisp, white No. 45 St. Louis Cardinals jersey signed by Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson was draped on a hanger in the empty locker adjacent to Dan Haren’s on Tuesday night. Haren isn’t big on memorabilia, but this was a special item.
“I’ve only got two,” Haren said. “That one and Nolan Ryan’s.”
Gibson and Ryan might have nodded with approval watching what Haren did Tuesday night in a 2-0 Angels win over the Cleveland Indians. In an era of pitchers babied because of six- and seven-man bullpens and coddled to protect multi-million-dollar investments, Haren looked as strong in the ninth inning as he had in the first, mowing down the Indians in a 1-2-3 ninth to complete the 17th one-hitter in Angels history.
Of the previous 16 Angels one-hitters, Ryan had thrown six of them.
It was a throwback performance by a throwback kind of pitcher. Haren has never missed a start, pitches at least 220 innings every year and isn’t peeking over his shoulder to see who’s warming up in the seventh inning.
“That workhorse you’re talking about, the list of those names isn’t quite as long as it was 40 or 50 years ago,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “You’re right to put Dan Haren right in the middle of a short list.”
Haren (3-0) had already thrown 115 pitches entering the ninth and he knew Scioscia would have pulled him if he’d allowed a base runner. So, he didn’t, getting Clevelands Nos. 1-3 hitters on a total of 10 pitches.
The Indians hit a few balls hard, but their one base hit was a glancing blow, a sinking liner by Shin-Soo Choo with one out in the fourth inning. After that, Haren just kept going out there and throwing strikes in good spots. Even the time of game felt like something from the 1960s, just two hours and 15 minutes.
Haren shares that in common with the old-time pitchers, too. He’s not afraid to throw the ball over the plate and let his defense work behind him.
“I was going at them pretty much the whole night, kind of controlled aggressiveness,” Haren said. “It was such a close game, I didn’t want to leave anything out over the plate but I didn’t want to get burned with the walk.”
The Angels are seeing an interesting chemistry develop between Haren and Jered Weaver, who seem to be pushing each other along in the first couple of weeks. Both pitchers have won every game they’ve pitched, including Haren in his one relief appearance in the past eight seasons, during Saturday night’s 14-inning marathon.
One of these days, the Angels are going to have to win a game in which one of those guys doesn’t pitch. But a pair of aces isn’t a bad hand.