Angels turn to Jose Suarez in opener vs. Red Sox

MLB Baseball

Jose Suarez pieced together a month’s worth of impressive performances out of the bullpen, earning another audition as a starter for the Los Angeles Angels.

Suarez will get his first opportunity to secure a spot in the rotation on Monday night when he takes the mound against the Boston Red Sox in the opener of a three-game series in Anaheim, Calif.

The 23-year-old left-hander is not only pitching effectively, but the Angels are playing their best baseball of the season thanks to the offensive production of All-Stars Shohei Ohtani and Jared Walsh. Los Angeles has won six of its past seven games.

“It just seems the right time to give Suarez the opportunity,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “Who knows how this is going to play out the rest of the year. Things just happen.”

Suarez (3-1, 1.98 ERA) has made nine relief appearances this season, most recently allowing one run in 5 1/3 innings against the New York Yankees last Monday.

Suarez entered on short notice after starter Dylan Bundy became ill, and he earned the win in the Angels’ 5-3 victory.

Suarez will not only need to adjust his preparation as a starter, but get ready for one of the best teams in the majors.

Boston is coming off a 1-0 win at the Oakland Athletics on Sunday in the rubber game of their three-game series. The Red Sox (53-32) have won nine of their past 10 games to give them the best record in the American League.

Suarez will be opposed by fellow Venezuelan left-hander Martin Perez.

Perez (6-4, 4.04) cooled off in June after going 3-0 in May with a 2.60 ERA. Historically, he has struggled in July, posting a 4-14 career mark with a 5.41 ERA.

Perez earned the win in his last outing, allowing two runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings of Boston’s 6-2 victory against the visiting Kansas City Royals on Wednesday.

“He knows how to pitch,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “He’s been using his fastball in different planes, and I think that’s the reason he’s been successful.”

Perez is 6-5 with a 4.02 ERA in 19 career appearances (15 starts) against the Angels. He scattered three hits in six shutout innings against them in a 9-0 win on May 15.

The trajectory of Suarez’s career was heading in a much different direction as recently as last fall.

He made 15 starts as a rookie in 2019 and went 2-6 with a 7.11 ERA, raising doubts whether he was a major-league-caliber pitcher.

Suarez struggled in his only two starts while going 0-2 with a 38.57 ERA last season. He combined for just 2 1/3 innings while giving up 10 runs, 10 hits and five walks.

After failing to make the Opening Day roster for the Angels, Suarez was recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake on May 10 after Felix Pena struggled.

Suarez got his first chance the same day, entering in the second inning against the Houston Astros. He allowed one run over the next four innings as the Angels rallied from a three-run deficit to claim a 5-4 victory — with Suarez earning the win.

Suarez made two more long relief appearances in May sandwiched around trips back to Salt Lake. He was recalled again on May 28 and remained consistent throughout June, posting a 1-1 mark with a 1.96 ERA in six appearances covering 18 1/3 innings.

“Everybody’s been really impressed,” Maddon said. “He’s a different guy this year.”

–Field Level Media

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