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Surprise, surprise: rotation is leading Angels back

After starting the year with three starters on the disabled list, then losing two more -- and one in tragic fashion -- I would have bet very good money that as of May 6th, the strength of the Los Angeles Angels would not be its rotation. Yet there those guys sit, leading the American League in ERA and leading a team that seemingly stalled at the starting line to six victories in their last eight games, and to within two games of first place. The Los Angeles Times is crediting Angels' pitching coach Mike Butcher:

Consider the case of Tuesday's starter -- and winner -- Shane Loux, who was out of baseball less than two years ago and appeared to be out of luck when the Orioles loaded the bases on him three batters into his last start. But after a mound visit from Butcher, Loux retired the next three hitters, then finished that start with five shutouts innings to earn his first big-league win since 2003.

Four outs into Tuesday's start, Loux was facing another bases-loaded situation when Butcher again paid him a visit. Loux got the next batter to hit into an inning-ending double play, then finished the start with five more shutout innings to even his record at 2-2 and lower his season ERA by nearly a full run to 4.30.

"I wish it was that good all the time. You just never know," Butcher said. "There's times when I have to go out there be a little tough. You have to pick and choose your spots, when you have to kick a guy in the butt."

Whatever he's kicking it's working, and given what he's working with -- a rotation made up of Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Shane Loux, Matt Palmer and Darren Oliver of all people -- it's hard not to credit him.

And given this little bit of news, it's hard not to think that the Angels will soon find themselves in their rightful place atop the AL West.

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