Nathan Eovaldi is evolving into a solid major league pitcher, if his four starts this season are any indication. If he could just get some run support one of these days, he could actually get a W beside his name in the boxscore.
The 22-year-old right-hander pitched six innings Wednesday night for the Los Angeles Dodgers, allowing a run and seven hits with four strikeouts. But closer Kenley Jansen gave up a leadoff homer in the ninth to Erick Aybar, and the Angels beat the Dodgers 2-1 in the rubber game of the season's first Freeway Series.
Eovaldi has a 1.82 ERA since being recalled from Double-A Chattanooga on May 29, but is 0-2 because the Dodgers have totaled only four runs on the days he's pitched.
"We're slowly seeing the evolution of Nate Eovaldi, and tonight it was just his ability to throw off-speed pitches," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis. "His slider and his curveball were really good — especially his curveball, which is a pitch he's been working really hard on. He got two really big strikeouts in big situations with that pitch. He's a special pitcher who's definitely living up to the billing."
The Dodgers' only run against C.J. Wilson came in the first inning on a walk to Elian Herrera and a two-out double by Andre Ethier, whose NL-leading 55 RBIs are seven fewer than he had in 487 at-bats last season. But Alberto Callaspo tied it in the second with a drive just inside the right-field pole, his third homer this season.
"You make mistakes to anybody in the big leagues and they'll make you pay," Ellis said. "Both balls on the home runs probably didn't get in far enough. Those guys may not always show it, but they have enough juice to hit it out."
Eovaldi pitched more carefully to Callaspo his next time up, walking him and loading the bases with none out in the third after singles by Mark Trumbo and Howie Kendrick. Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt came out for a chat with Eovaldi, who got Aybar to roll over his next pitch as first baseman Albert Pujols threw home to start a 3-2-3 double play. John Hester struck out, stranding two runners in scoring position.
The Angels had the potential tying run at second in the fifth, but Eovaldi fooled Trumbo on a breaking ball for the third out after an intentional walk to Pujols.
The switch-hitting Aybar jumped on a 1-1 pitch from Jansen (4-2) and deposited it into the pavilion seats in right-center. It was his 25th homer in 2,395 big league at-bats — including a career-high 10 last season, which matched his total for the previous two seasons combined.
"Both teams had a lot of chances to score, it seemed like, and nobody did anything with guys on base," Wilson said. "It's just kind of ironic that we won on a solo homer from a guy who hadn't hit one yet, so it was kind of cool."
LaTroy Hawkins (1-1) earned his first victory with the Angels after pitching a hitless eighth in relief of Wilson. Ernesto Frieri got three outs for his sixth save in six chances, retiring pinch-hitter and former Angel Bobby Abreu on a comebacker with two runners in scoring position.
Wilson allowed a run and four hits over seven innings in his Dodger Stadium debut, striking out three and walking five. The left-hander, who did not give up a hit over his final 4 2-3 innings, has a 0.77 ERA over his last five starts, with three wins and two no-decisions.
Dodgers second baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. was the defensive star of the game because of two plays in the seventh that didn't require him to field a batted ball — but averted what would have been a pair of throwing errors by third baseman Juan Uribe on grounders by Mike Trout and Pujols.
Hairston made a diving grab of Uribe's throw for the force on Wilson while keeping his foot on the bag, then got another difficult throw to handle from Uribe and turned a tricky inning-ending double play.
NOTES: Two nights after winning their first Stanley Cup, the Los Angeles Kings brought it to Dodger Stadium. Captain Dustin Brown placed the Cup on top of the mound, where he was joined by his teammates and then the Dodgers' and Angels' uniformed personnel for a massive group photo. Each Kings player threw a ceremonial first pitch to a different Dodgers player, and organist Nancy Bea Hefley played a few choruses of "The Night They Invented Champagne," from the 1958 Leslie Caron musical "Gigi." ... The Angels also got to see the Stanley Cup in 2007, when the Anaheim Ducks brought it over two weeks after winning the title across the street at Honda Center. ... Wilson's entire body of work against the Dodgers before this start consisted of a mopup inning of one-hit relief on June 14, 2009, at Arlington, Texas, when he struck out Ethier and Loney. ... Callaspo's homer was the 30th of his career and second against an NL team. The other was against Cincinnati's Matt Maloney at Kansas City on June 12, 2009.