6/8/2014 10:04 P.M. ET
Jepsen settles into groove, claims prominent 'pen role
By Alden Gonzalez and Matthew DeFranks / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Kevin Jepsen's career ERA is 7.29 in the months of March, April and May, and 3.17 in June, July, August, September and October.
"I don't know why," the Angels' power reliever said of why he's historically a slow starter. "Even this year, I started throwing early in the offseason to avoid that, because if I get past that first month, it'll be easier to have, numbers-wise, a better season. Obviously, that didn't happen."
Jepsen gave up five runs on Opening Day, putting his ERA at 67.50 to start the season, then notched 12 consecutive scoreless outings, then gave up three more runs on May 4, elevating his mark to 6.35.
Ever since then, the 29-year-old right-hander has settled into a groove, one that has seemingly earned him the distinction of Mike Scioscia's seventh-inning guy, only below Ernesto Frieri and Joe Smith in the bullpen pecking order.
Heading into Sunday, Jepsen has 12 consecutive scoreless outings once again, giving up only two hits -- both coming Friday -- and four walks while striking out 11 over a nine-inning stretch.
"When you start off the year with a 60-something ERA like I started off with, it makes it a lot easier not to look at it," said Jepsen, who sports a 3.54 ERA and, more importantly, is second on the team with a 1.08 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched).
"You just say, 'All right, I have to battle.' You just look at each outing. 'I'm going to throw a scoreless outing today.' Not think, 'Oh, I've got to throw 15.' You have to, because it's such a long season. You start looking at chunks and things like that, then you don't worry about today."
Freese draws career-high four walks against Sox
ANAHEIM -- In the first 33 games of his season, David Freese walked five times. He nearly matched that total Sunday.
Freese drew a career-high four walks and scored a run during the Angels' 4-2 sweep-clinching win over the White Sox on Sunday. He became the fifth Angels third baseman to record four walks in a game, the first since Chone Figgins in 2007. He now has 10 walks in the last nine games.
Freese's four free passes helped No. 5 hitter Josh Hamilton come up with runners in scoring position in each of his four at-bats. In his sixth game back from a thumb injury, Hamilton went 2-for-4 with three RBIs. As a team, the Angels drew seven walks.
"David will take the walk when it's there, particularly with guys is scoring position," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He did a great job of passing down the baton. He wasn't getting anything to hit. Josh was behind him and made up for it. When we're going well as a team, I think guys are going to pass that baton to the next guy."
Each of Freese's plate appearances began with a ball before he ran the count full. The four-walk day snapped Freese's six-game hitting streak, when he was 8-for-19 (.421) with an OPS of 1.015.
The third baseman struggled early in the season, hitting just .202/.266/.286 before missing 16 games with a fracture in his right middle finger. Since returning to the lineup May 20, Freese is sporting a .270/.352/.317 slash line with seven RBIs in 17 games. Last season, Freese hit .163 in April before batting .274 the rest of the way.
"Hopefully seeing the ball well will continue to move towards his power," Scioscia said. "He can really drive the ball and that's one thing we haven't quite seen this year."
Freese only has two home runs this season after hitting 29 in the past two seasons. He has not hit a homer since April 27.
After dropping seven of 10 during an 11-day road trip, the Angels have now won three in a row and welcome division-leading Oakland the Angel Stadium for a three-game set beginning Monday.
Hamilton keeps up aggressive play, headfirst dives
ANAHEIM -- The good news is Josh Hamilton took a lot of extra bases on Saturday night, notching three singles, stealing second base, going first to third on a sharp single to right, scoring a run and coming out of it all unscathed.
The bad news -- or, perhaps, the uncomfortable reality -- is that he's still sliding headfirst.
That won't change, even after spending eight weeks rehabbing a surgically repaired left thumb.
"I can't say it's good to see him dive headfirst into a base," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Usually when he does, it means he's safe into a base. But he's got enough protection in there that that shouldn't be an issue. I can't make too much of it. He's going to play aggressively."
Hamilton, who originally injured the thumb on a headfirst slide into first base on April 8, is wearing a guard on his left hand when he reaches base for added protection -- but he isn't a very big fan of it.
"It slows me down," Hamilton said, referencing how the dirt creeps inside of it every time he slides.
But the 33-year-old will continue to wear it for about a month, giving his thumb a little more time to fully heal and to ease the concerns of others.
"If it's mentally better for the training staff and the coaches, I'm all for it," said Hamilton, who entered Sunday 6-for-19 since coming off the disabled list. "But what if I dive in the outfield? Whatever."
• Asked how many others could take a low-and-away changeup from Chris Sale and line it out to left-center field the way Mike Trout did with his game-tying grand slam on Saturday night, Scioscia said: "A select group. You're talking about the [Miguel] Cabreras, the Trouts, the [Albert] Pujolses … Vladdy [Guerrero]. I saw the replay this morning and I was thinking, 'That was not a mistake.' That was a pretty good pitch; a really good pitch."
• Pujols started at designated hitter for the second time in three games on Sunday, and the 14th time in his 61 starts this season. Scioscia said Pujols is "feeling fine," and just wanted to put him at DH because the Angels' 12:35 p.m. PT start on Sunday afternoon came after a 7:05 start on Saturday night.
• Kole Calhoun sat on the bench against a lefty for the second straight day on Sunday, even though the left-handed hitter has a career .744 OPS against southpaws (compared to a .764 OPS against righties. Said Scioscia: "I don't think anything has changed about our confidence that Kole's going to hit left-handers, but I do feel we want to keep [right-handed-hitting] Collin Cowgill fresh for some at-bats and not have him sit for a long time."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. Matthew DeFranks is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.