Weaver halts A's with stellar return to action

Weaver halts A's with stellar return to action

Weaver halts A's with stellar return to action
ANAHEIM -- It isn't an easy sell, given the state of his team and the competitor within him, to make Jered Weaver buy into the benefit of missing a September start. But on Sept. 2, a Sunday in Seattle that saw him take a liner off the right shoulder, it got to the point where even Weaver couldn't deny that he hadn't been himself. The right biceps tendinitis that manifested itself in early August had reached a level where the Angels' ace hardly recognized himself, and taking time off essentially became undeniable.

"It's hard going out there injured," Weaver said, after a 6-0 victory Thursday that made the decision a lot easier to accept. "Sometimes you have to look yourself in the mirror and say, 'Hey, maybe this one start will get everything healthy again.' Thank God that was the case and that it was only one start. It's good to be back."

The Angels -- a team that came in with three straight losses and in desperate need of any sort of positive momentum -- are more than happy to have him.

Six days after missing his scheduled turn through the rotation, Weaver came up big when his team absolutely needed it, hurling seven innings of two-hit ball Thursday afternoon in Angel Stadium to snap the Athletics' six-game winning streak and prove once again why he's the clear-cut ace of a star-studded staff.

Asked how much of a difference missing one turn through the rotation made, Weaver said: "Huge."

"I felt free and easy," he added after capturing his 17th win of the season and the 99th of his career. "It's usually the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh inning when it starts to tighten up and it's tough to go back out there and get loose. I didn't have any of that issue today, and it's definitely comforting to know you come out of a game throwing close to 100 pitches [94] and still feel good."

Weaver's performance, and a six-run seventh inning, allowed the Angels to salvage the four-game series and keep pace with the Orioles and Yankees, who both won Thursday to remain tied for the American League East lead and also maintain a 3 1/2-game lead on the second AL Wild Card spot.

"Those guys took it to us the first three, but you have to play where you are," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, whose team next plays a weekend set in Kansas City. "Today was a good win for us and a great effort by Jered. He showed great stuff. He had his fastball where he needed, he changed speeds. Strong seven innings."

The Angels' offense totaled only seven runs in the first three games of this series and struggled early against lefty Brett Anderson, who came in 4-0 with a 0.69 ERA in his first four starts removed from Tommy John surgery. But after being held scoreless through the first six innings -- giving them three runs through the first six frames for the entire four-game series -- the Angels finally broke through while batting around in the seventh.

Torii Hunter, batting cleanup for the first time since mid-May, led off with a home run to right-center field, his 15th. Mark Trumbo, who came into the game 2-for-24 with 12 strikeouts in September, dropped an RBI single into shallow center. Alberto Callaspo, batting second for the first time all year, laced a two-run single to right field with Jesse Chavez pitching. Mike Trout scored on a passed ball. And Hunter capped it off with a line-drive single that made it 6-0 and pushed Weaver toward his 17th win of the season.

Weaver set that up while walking one and striking out nine, dropping his ERA to 2.74 and perhaps putting himself right back in the conversation for the AL Cy Young Award.

"He's in the conversation with anyone you want to talk about in our league as far as being the Cy Young," Scioscia said. "It'll probably hinge on how he finishes down the stretch."

"When he's got everything working, it's tough to think along with him, tough to eliminate pitches and sit on a particular pitch," added A's skipper Bob Melvin, whose club still leads the AL Wild Card race and is 4 1/2 games better than the Angels. "He mixes it up so well."

Weaver's tendinitis began, he believes, with his Aug. 6 shutout in Oakland. Shortly after that, he wasn't the same. His ERA was 6.14 in the five starts that followed and, as he said, "I couldn't get on pitches, certain pitches, when I wanted." Shortly after being struck by a line drive on the right shoulder in Seattle two Sundays ago, Weaver underwent an MRI, which revealed the unrelated biceps tendinitis. He then missed his Friday start against the Tigers, with the belief that a little time off would get him back to where he was earlier in the year.

"Weave would pitch until his arm fell off," Scioscia said. "But I think he realized he needed to take a step back, and he showed up like the Weave we know this afternoon."

Weaver struck out six of the first eight batters he faced -- "I was antsy to get out there, no doubt," he said -- put only one runner in scoring position and retired the last nine hitters in order. The right-hander called his improved changeup "uplifting," and catcher Chris Iannetta felt his fastball had more giddy-up, even though it mostly sat in the usual upper-80s.

At one point, though, a glitch in the stadium radar gun caused it to read 137 mph on one of his pitches.

"Yeah, it was that hard," Weaver said, tongue firmly placed in cheek. "I was feeling good out there."

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.