Downs, Takahashi paying off handsomely

Downs, Takahashi paying off handsomely

Downs, Takahashi paying off handsomely
ARLINGTON -- When the Angels landed southpaw relievers Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi as their free-agent targets this past offseason, losing out on bigger names with much higher price tags, the prevailing reaction among media and fans was, "Is that all there is?"

In reflection, the moves were at the very least important -- and possibly season-saving. The two veterans have used their guile and skills to produce big outs, giving the Angels bullpen balance they've been lacking since lefty Darren Oliver departed for Texas.

Downs, who'd toiled under the radar in Toronto as an elite reliever for five seasons, has been as consistently effective as any late-game weapon in the Majors.

Rebounding from hamstring tightness with another perfect inning in Saturday night's 8-4 win over the Rangers, Downs shaved his ERA to 1.28 in 47 appearances. He has 27 strikeouts against nine walks.

Downs is 6-2 with 21 holds, stranding 21 of 25 inherited baserunners. Critically, he has held the Rangers scoreless in 22 of his past 23 outings and has not allowed a run in 23 Angel Stadium appearances, covering 20 2/3 innings.

Takahashi, available from the fifth inning to the final out, has delivered in a broader role. He's 3-2 with a 3.86 ERA in 49 appearances, and his background as a starter in Japan clearly shows in how he gets stronger the longer he's in the game. With his first 25 pitches, opponents are hitting .264 with a .402 slugging mark. From 26 on, those numbers plunge to .120 and .240.

Summoned with one out in the ninth on Saturday night, bases loaded and sizzling David Murphy representing the tying run at the plate, Takahashi ended the threat with a fastball that became two outs on a double-play ball to second baseman Howard Kendrick.

Takahashi's second save was his biggest moment in an Angels uniform, but the stylish lefty figures to have more. He's signed through next season, with Downs in the fold for two more seasons.

"We've been using Hisanori in a variety of roles," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "and he's been pitching well. We've gotten a lot of good work out of Downs and Takahashi."