OAKLAND -- It's safe to say Angels lefty Nick Maronde will never forget his 23rd birthday.
With Scott Downs deemed unavailable after pitching in back-to-back games, Maronde found himself pitching in a critical spot during his second Major League appearance on Wednesday, with runners on the corners, one out and the Angels clinging to a two-run lead in the bottom of the seventh.
The result: Strikeout, strikeout, strikeout.
Maronde turned around the switch-hitting Coco Crisp and struck him out swinging on a 92-mph fastball, then struck out the left-handed-hitting Seth Smith swinging on an 83-mph slider to end the threat, then started the eighth with a strikeout of the lefty slugger Josh Reddick on a 91-mph fastball.
If you're scoring at home, that's four strikeouts against four batters to kick off Maronde's Major League career.
"It's been awesome," Maronde said after the Angels' sweep-clinching 7-1 win over the A's. "It's been a real nice five days."
"He was the MVP of the game, really," winning pitcher Dan Haren added. "He came in throwing a lot of fastballs and he threw those great sliders to Seth Smith. I remember being in a similar situation of his in 2004 [with the Cardinals], coming out of the bullpen in big situations and pitching in playoff games and stuff. They're very nerve-wracking, so it's definitely a testament to the guy's mental makeup that he can go out there and stay composed and throw strikes in a huge situation."
Maronde, who struck out Mariners outfielder Carlos Peguero in his Major League debut on Sunday, has been a starter since the Angels took him in the third round of the 2011 Draft. And in 2012, he jumped three levels in the Minors, combining to post a 2.26 ERA and a 4.74 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 20 games (18 starts).
But he was a closer and setup man during his final two years at the University of Florida.
And it seems like he hasn't really lost touch with that.
"I'm just going out there trying to throw strikes," Maronde said. "They don't really know me, I don't think there's a lot of film on me, so I have the upper hand there."