I don't know why, but when Dan Haren emerged as a top-tier pitcher with Oakland, I couldn't figure out why. For some reason, I had watched him pitch a few times a year and was never particularly impressed. It just didn't seem reasonable that some dude who had a 4.12 ERA in the first season I saw him could possible be anywhere near the 3.07 ERA pitcher I was seeing a year later.
Regardless, he went on to the National League and had two extremely impressive years paired with Brandon Webb as the 1-2 punch of the Arizona Diamondbacks. When he was traded to the Angels during a season where bad luck had forced his traditional stats into a steep decline, I praised the move as one which fundamentally strengthened the team without creating any new deficiencies. It was, and remains, Regains' best move as general manager.
Tonight, he pitched a 2-hit shutout, winning 1-0 over Justin Verlander. Verlander, competing for the AL Cy Young with Jered Weaver this season, was superb, but not good enough to earn the win, allowing a single run to the Angels on an Erick Aybar double. A good call by third base coach Dino Ebel sent Kendrick home when Detroit outfielder Magglio Ordonez sent the ball in to second base rather than home. With Haren allowing only 2 hits while striking out 9, a single run was all the Halos needed.
The Angels have, over the last few series, managed to put together a respectable record that has them, somehow, tied for first place in the division. Baseball's great curse, the neverending season, has already begun to warp my perceptions of the team. With the best 1-2 starters in the league and a thoroughly respectable 3-5, the Angels are unlikely to lose many games on account of their starting pitching. Meager offense notwithstanding, this Angels team is no fundamentally different than the 2009 division title club. Perhaps they'll make the playoffs after all.