Matt Shoemaker's arm never really inspired scouts. But his arm might not be his greatest asset when he takes the mound.
Shoemaker attacks. He doesn't waste time. He doesn't pitch around hitters, he pitches down the middle more often than not. And he can do it for more innings than most.
"That's what Shoe does: He's an inning-eater for us," manager Keith Johnson said. "He goes out there, goes deep in the ballgame and gives us an opportunity to win."
Despite a strong start from Shoemaker on Tuesday afternoon, the Bees (12-8) could not seize the opportunity. Tacoma (10-10) earned a series split by getting a pair of runs and holding on for a 2-1 win. Salt Lake's only run came on a homer by Chris Snyder in the second inning, his seventh of the year.
It was disappointing to take the loss, Shoemaker acknowledged, and the 10 hits he surrendered were more than he wanted to give up. But that didn't mean that he hadn't given the Bees enough of a chance: Seven innings with only two runs given up can get a win on most days.
"The goal is to go out and attack the bottom of the zone, get the ball low and get ground balls," he said. "I though I did that pretty well. We had a lot of ground-ball hits, and I'd rather have ground-ball hits than doubles, triples or home runs."
If you look back on the career of the 26-year-old right-hander with a lumberjack's beard, he's had a lot of success with that approach. His attacking mentality limits his pitch counts while allowing him to cover a lot of innings. Last season, he led the Pacific Coast League with 176.2 innings pitched while throwing a team-high 123 strikeouts.
For an undrafted prospect out of Eastern Michigan, he's come a long way. Six years ago, he couldn't get a sniff. Now he's a reliable starter at one of the highest levels of pro ball.
Back then, Shoemaker had bones to pick with all of those people who didn't give him much of a chance. Nowadays, just like his pitching style, he tries to keep moving forward.
"I thought I was underrated back then, but it's part of the game," he said. "I got a chance with the Angels, so I've just tried to run with it."
Tuesday offered examples of what makes him so valuable: He fought through struggles in the third and fourth innings, giving up seven hits but only two runs. Then he pitched three more innings after that, going three up and three down until bowing out after the seventh.
More than two-thirds of his pitches were strikes. He left six baserunners stranded, and he walked only one batter.
Even in a loss, you can't ask for much more than that.
"He gives you consistency," Johnson said. "I don't know how many years he's been at the top of his league or at the top of minor league baseball in innings pitched. That says something as far as his stuff and his ability to get guys out. That's the biggest thing with Shoe: He gets out there and he competes."
Rainiers 2, Bees 1
O Chris Snyder's second-inning homer accounts for the Bees' only run.
• Salt Lake starter Matt Shoemaker falls to 1-3 despite a quality start.
• The Rainiers outhit the Bees 11-8.