It was only the ninth start of Matt Shoemaker's career when he faced the Kansas City Royals on June 27 and was roughed up to the tune of eight runs in four innings.
"It's going to make me tougher," the rookie said after that loss. "You learn from it."
Shoemaker took the lesson to heart and has been holding opposing lineups largely in check since then. Now he gets another shot at the Royals on Friday night in Game 2 of the AL division series as the Los Angeles Angels look to avoid dropping both games at home.
The 28-year-old is 11-2 with a 2.09 ERA over 12 starts and two relief outings since losing to Kansas City. The Angels have won the last eight appearances by Shoemaker, who has gone 7-0 with a 1.29 ERA in that span after allowing one run in 7 2-3 innings of an 8-1 victory over Seattle on Sept. 15.
Shoemaker (16-4, 3.04 ERA) hasn't pitched since because of a mild left oblique strain but will be ready to go as part of the Angels' three-man rotation for the ALDS.
The right-hander would pitch a deciding Game 5, if necessary.
"We're expecting Matt to be fine and pitch as deep as he can into the game," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We like the way Matt has been pitching, and I think (Jered) Weaver getting out in Game 1, followed with Matt, gives us the best look here in the first couple of games."
Weaver allowed two runs in seven innings Thursday, but Mike Moustakas homered in the 11th to lift the Royals to a 3-2 victory two nights after they rallied for a 9-8, 12-inning win over Oakland in the wild-card game.
Moustakas, who hit .212 in the regular season and had a May stint in the minors to address his struggles, had one homer in his previous 50 games, including Tuesday.
"Having a lot of fun in our first postseason. It's just been awesome so far," Moustakas said. "We've been doing it any way we can. It's somebody different every night."
Kansas City, which was held without a hit for four innings before Moustakas' blast, was also helped by stellar defensive plays from outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Nori Aoki.
"We were able to cut their rallies down a little bit on some of the huge catches. Hats off to those guys," Moustakas said.
Chris Iannetta and David Freese homered, but Kole Calhoun had the only other two hits for the Angels. Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Howie Kendrick (three strikeouts) and Josh Hamilton combined to go 0 for 18.
"Those guys hung in there and got the big outs and got the big hit late," Scioscia said. "We hit two home runs to keep ourselves in the game, but outside of that, we didn't really pressure those guys very much."
The Royals will look to steal both games in Anaheim behind Yordano Ventura, who was second to Shoemaker in victories among rookies but is coming off a pair of tough outings.
Ventura (14-10, 3.20) was roughed up in his final start of the regular season, giving up four runs and eight hits in four innings of the Royals' 6-4 victory Sunday. Then in Tuesday's wild-card game, the right-hander entered in the sixth inning and allowed a two-run homer to Brandon Moss and got only one out on 13 pitches before the dramatic rally.
"We like his power," manager Ned Yost said. "(Tuesday's) game was like a side session for him. He throws a 100-mph four-seamer, a 96-mph two-seamer, 95-mph cutter, a nice changeup and above-average curve when he throws it for strikes."
Ventura wasn't very efficient in his only start against the Angels on June 28, giving up two runs and seven hits in four innings of a 6-2 defeat.