Weaver dominates Giants in return to action

Weaver dominates Giants in return to action

Weaver dominates Giants in return to action
ANAHEIM -- Prior to making his first start in more than two weeks, Jered Weaver was expecting only two results.

"It was either going to be really good or really bad," he said. "It was nice to go on the really good side of things."

Weaver got there with six shutout innings against the Giants. The Angels' ace could've gone longer if not for the strict pitch count manager Mike Scioscia set for his first start off the disabled list, but he went long enough to set the tone in a 6-0 victory Wednesday night at Angel Stadium.

For the last 19 days, Weaver was on the shelf, nursing a lower back strain while on the DL for only the second time in his career.

Then he came back and pitched like he never left.

"I'm not surprised by anything he does," said Mark Trumbo, who teamed up with Kendrys Morales for back-to-back homers in a three-run, game-breaking eighth inning. "He's a tremendous talent. We have high expectations every time he takes the mound, based on what he's been able to do and the numbers he puts up year in and year out."

Thanks to a vintage Weaver, the Angels -- off Thursday before hosting a weekend series against the rival Dodgers -- took two of three from San Francisco. They've now won nine of their last 12 games and eight of their last nine series, improving to a Major League-best 32-18 since April 28 to help them stay 5 1/2 games back of a Rangers team that has won six straight.

Weaver's 2012 numbers after scattering two hits, walking two and striking out three in a 78-pitch, six-inning outing: 7-1 with an American League-leading 2.40 ERA, including a 0.70 mark at home and three earned runs over his last 21 innings.

The best part: Weaver wasn't even thinking about his back Wednesday.

"If I was thinking about it, it wasn't good to be out there," he said. "You want to get over that factor of it. I didn't think about it one bit. I just went out there and tried to fill the zone up as much as possible."

Any worry Scioscia may have carried into that first inning, when his $85 million ace took the mound for the first time since suffering excruciating back pain May 28, were eased by the way Weaver warmed up and a "look" that assured the Angels' skipper the righty would be all right.

"And the first 10 pitches of the game," Scioscia added, "you saw the ball come out of his hand the way it needed to."

Weaver's offspeed stuff wasn't there early on -- though his changeup got better as the game went on -- but when Weaver froze leadoff hitter Gregor Blanco with a 3-2, outside-corner fastball, Scioscia knew he had his ace back.

Weaver retired the first eight hitters in order and breezed through the first four frames with only one hit and one walk, the Angels giving him a lead courtesy of a second-inning homer by Alberto Callaspo off Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong.

Then came a rough fifth, which saw Weaver allow two baserunners and exhaust 22 pitches, putting his tally at 71 and causing Jason Isringhausen to start warming up.

Scioscia didn't fret, though.

"He was OK," he said. "I think he had enough definitely to start the sixth. We had Izzy ready in case we needed some help in the sixth inning."

Isringhausen wouldn't be needed, though. Weaver -- pitching with a three-run lead after RBI singles by Erick Aybar and Mike Trout the previous half-inning -- navigated through the top of the Giants' lineup in order, needing only seven pitches to qualify for the quality start.

"He was on," said skipper Bruce Bochy, whose Giants were making their first trip to Angel Stadium since the 2002 World Series. "He came off the DL and didn't look like he missed a beat. I don't think we hit any balls hard off of him. He threw great."

And when Weaver retired the hot-hitting Melky Cabrera on a grounder to first for the third out of the sixth, he knew he had thrown his final pitch. He didn't even try to convince Scioscia to bring him out for one more inning.

His night was done.

"It was a little weird," Weaver said about pitching with a strict pitch count behind him. "I came in and I was like, 'Man, this is bull crap.' But at the same time, I knew it was going to happen. And like I told the guys earlier, it was nice to be able to get through six."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.