Angels' offense hammers Royals in rubber game

Angels' offense hammers Royals in rubber game

Angels' offense hammers Royals in rubber game
ANAHEIM -- It's a rare occurrence when starter Jered Weaver isn't at his best. But on Wednesday, the Angels' offense took care of the Royals for him.

The Angels put up eight runs in the first four innings en route to an 11-6 win in the rubber game at Angel Stadium -- the Halos' sixth straight series victory at home.

The win was the fourth in the last six games for the Angels and, at least temporarily, put them a half-game on top of the Athletics in the American League Wild-Card standings.

The Angels scored all eight runs off Royals starter Luke Hochevar in his three-plus innings before the right-hander was ejected for drilling Mike Trout in the back with a 3-0 pitch in the fourth inning. Weaver hit the Royals' Lorenzo Cain twice before, but said he had no reason to hit Cain. Weaver had hit just four batters during the last three seasons before Wednesday.

After recording only four hits in Tuesday night's 4-1 loss to the Royals, the Angels strung together 17 hits in this one, one short of their season high.

The Angels (54-45) put three runs on the board in the first inning on two singles and two doubles. And with plenty of help from the Royals' shaky defense, the Angels tacked on three more runs in the second on two hits and two errors, giving them a 6-0 lead.

Torii Hunter matched a season high going 4-for-5 with a home run, three runs scored and three RBIs. Had Albert Pujols been healthy enough to play after getting hit by a pitch on Tuesday, it would have been him and not Hunter, who served as the designated hitter on Wednesday.

"I love defense. There's something about it," Hunter said. "But if I had to DH, like today, I'm thankful. It's boring as [heck], but I'm thankful."

Batting out of the two-hole behind the speedy Mike Trout has done more for Hunter than give him more RBI opportunities. In 34 games batting second this season, Hunter is hitting .301 with five home runs, 28 RBIs and 29 runs scored.

When Trout gets on base in front of him, Hunter said he sees more fastballs because the pitchers are often scared Trout's speed will put him in scoring position. In fact, the slider Hunter hit out of the park in the eighth inning, which was just two pitches after Trout's two-run homer, was kind of a blessing. Hunter hasn't seen very many offspeed pitches batting behind Trout.

"That slider I hit out today, I was like, 'Thank you,'" Hunter said. "I've been seeing a lot of fastballs just because they don't want Trout to steal, and they want to be quick to the plate. His speed changed the game. That's what he has -- game-changing speed."

With his two-run homer in the eighth, Trout finished 2-for-4 with three runs scored. In 30 games since June 19, the rookie is batting .404 with 38 runs scored and 21 extra-base hits. He is on pace to become just the sixth player over the last five seasons, not including 2012, to hit .345 or above with 15-or-more home runs before Aug. 1.

And though Trout has been the table-setter for the offense nearly every game since his callup, this was one of the first times Weaver really needed his offense early.

The Angels ace threw 101 pitches in five innings, allowing three hits, two walks and two hit batsmen while striking out eight to improve to 13-1.

Though it was his shortest outing since May 28, when Weaver strained his back three batters into the game, it was the seventh win in as many starts for the right-hander and improved his record at home to 8-0. He has given up more than two runs just once in his last 10 starts (12 runs in 61 2/3 innings) and became the first Angels starter ever to win 13 of his first 14 decisions to open a season.

Weaver's command failed him at times against the Royals, causing his pitch count to rise and forcing him out of the game after only five. But even when he wasn't at his best, Weaver's first runs didn't come until Billy Butler's 20th homer of the year, a two-run shot in the fifth inning.

"Every pitch I tried to throw in was drifting," Weaver said. "It was definitely a battle out there, but the story of the day was the offense. They came and they swung the bats and gave me a little leeway. It was a little struggle as far as the command goes, but I was able to make some outs when I needed to."

Joe McIntyre is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.