Former Gator pitcher Nick Maronde will use his fastball-slider combination out of the bullpen in September to help the Angels chase an AL wild card spot with 25 games left. (Brad McClenny/Staff Photographer)

Nick Maronde figured he’d give himself a nice birthday present on Wednesday.

The left-handed pitcher, who was called up by the Angels on Saturday, struck out the only batter he faced in his debut against the Mariners the following day. Then, on the same day he turned 23, the third-round draft pick out of Florida in 2011 turned heads to help the Halos complete a huge sweep of the red-hot Athletics.

With the A’s down two runs in the seventh inning and threatening with runners on first and third with one out, Maronde came in to replace Garrett Richards.

Unfazed by the situation and an energized O.co Coliseum, Maronde used his fastball-slider combo to fan the top two hitters in Oakland’s lineup — Coco Crisp and Seth Smith — to sit the fans, and the side, down for the inning. For good measure, he’d strike out No. 3 batter Josh Reddick to start the eighth before calling it a night.

Not bad for a guy who hadn’t pitched above Double A prior to Sunday.

“I was a little calmer today because I got my feet wet in Seattle,” Maronde told the latimes.com, not making it clear if there was a pun intended with that statement. “I just wanted to throw strikes and let the defense make plays. I didn’t expect this at all. It’s surreal, to be honest.”

Maronde took the mound as veteran lefty reliever Scott Downs was unavailable after pitching the previous two games.

While the Angels and Athletics don’t seem to have a chance at catching the Rangers in the AL West, both teams are vying for one of two wild card spots. The A’s, who were on top of the wild card standings before facing their division rival, are a half game behind the Yankees/Orioles for one of those spots entering Friday. Meanwhile, the Angels are three games back with 25 games left.

The Angels’ sweep of the A’s was also huge considering Oakland was the hottest team in baseball before that series. The A’s had won nine straight games, having outscored their opponents 72-22 during that stretch.

Maronde, who was credited with a hold on Wednesday, joined the team as a starter but spent his final two years with the Gators as a closer and setup man. He’ll continue to be relied on out of the bullpen in September.

“The minor league guys felt he had the makeup and the arm to pitch here,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He showed it in a big way (on Wednesday).”

Everyone had praise for Maronde, who started the season playing for Class-A Inland Empire.

“He was probably the MVP of the game,” said Angels starter Dan Haren. “It’s a testament to his mental makeup that he can stay composed and throw strikes.”

The Angels begin a three-game home series against the Tigers on Friday.

STEVEN RODRIGUEZ
Similar to Maronde, Steven Rodriguez will also look to give another L.A. team a much-needed second lefty out of the bullpen as the Dodgers gun for a wild card spot in the NL.

The 21-year-old Rodriguez, drafted out of Florida in the second round by the Dodgers, was called up by the team on Wednesday. He began his pro career with Class-A Great Lakes but quickly moved his way up in the minors. Rodriguez earned two saves in six appearances before quickly being promoted to Double-A Chattanooga. In 15 games there, he tallied three saves, a 1.32 ERA and struck out 22 batters in 13.2 innings.

The Dodgers have been hurting for a second left-handed reliever since Scott Elbert was placed on the DL on July 27. Rodriguez will join Randy Choate as the team’s lefties in the bullpen.

The Dodgers, who begin a three-game series in San Francisco on Friday, are 4.5 games back of the Giants in the NL West. L.A. is tied with the Pirates at 1.5 games back of the Braves and Cardinals, who are tied atop the wild card standings.