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It’s all about opportunity for Angels vs. Astros

The Los Angeles Angels will host the Houston Astros Sunday afternoon in Anaheim, Calif., but if they get to the ninth inning with a lead, don’t expect their closer to light up the radar gun.

The Angels traded away Raisel Iglesias, a more prototypical closer, at the trading deadline on Aug. 2, leaving the ninth-inning duties to whomever interim manager Phil Nevin might find willing and able on a particular night.

Right-hander Jimmy Herget, who missed part of June and all of July with a shoulder impingement, has emerged as Nevin’s go-to guy to finish off games even though he’s more likely to throw a pitch that hits 74 mph on the radar gun than 94.

Herget’s unusual style — different arm slots, odd delivery motion, drastic changes in velocity on a 6-foot-3, 170-pound frame — has been effective in a closer’s role. He has five saves in six opportunities this season, but is 4-for-4 since rejoining the roster in early August.

That includes saves in three of the Angels’ last four wins, two of which came against the New York Yankees.

“It’s a good opportunity,” Herget said. “I saved a lot of games in the minor leagues, but it doesn’t compare to the big league saves, especially against the crowd that we had the other night (against the Yankees).

“(Nevin) has never come up to me and said that I’m the closer or anything like that. I’m just continuing to go out there and whenever the phone rings for my name, I’m going to pitch.”

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Even though Herget is not overpowering, he manages to get his share of strikeouts — he has 53 in 54 2/3 innings. He had one strikeout in 1 1/3 scoreless innings Saturday in the Angels’ 2-1 win in 12 innings.

“He’s a very cerebral guy, and he has a really good idea of how to attack hitters,” Angels pitching coach Matt Wise said. “He understands his stuff as well as anybody on the team. And he’s a unique guy. It’s different arm angles. It’s kind of funky. You kind of know what you’re going to get in Jimmy, and there’s a lot of trust in that.”

Left-hander Tucker Davidson, who joined the Angels in the trade that sent Iglesias to the Braves, will be on the mound for Los Angeles Sunday. He’s 2-4 with a 5.77 ERA overall this season, including 1-2 with a 5.21 ERA in four starts with the Angels.

Right-hander Jose Urquidy (12-5, 3.69) will make his 25th start of the season for Houston. Coming off a loss to Baltimore his last time out Aug. 27, when he gave up three runs in five innings, Urquidy is 4-0 with a 3.60 ERA in eight career games (seven starts) against the Angels. That includes two victories in two starts with a 1.64 ERA this season.

Urquidy is not a strikeout pitcher, but that’s not a bad thing. One of his best starts of the season came on July 8 when he pitched a career-best eight innings in a win against the Oakland Athletics and struck out only two.

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“Sometimes soft contact is the way to go,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “The more strikeouts you get, the more pitches you’ve got to throw.”


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