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Angels' Weaver gets it right in win

Unpredictable starter pitches eight great innings in 6-1 victory over Rays; team scores four in first.

June 11, 2008|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

Jered Weaver has been as difficult to decipher as a doctor's handwriting this season, and it has nothing to do with his corkscrew delivery.

When he's on his game, the Angels right-hander has been nearly untouchable. He's pitched at least seven innings and allowed one run or fewer in four starts.

But when Weaver has struggled, the results have been unsightly. He's given up 10 hits five times and lost three of those outings.

From the moment he struck out a pair of batters during a perfect first inning Tuesday night at Angel Stadium, there was little doubt which Weaver had showed up against Tampa Bay.

Weaver went on to pitch eight superb innings during the Angels' 6-1 victory, a triumph in which they hardly needed their biggest offensive output in 19 games.

"Obviously, it's been a roller-coaster ride for me and a little different than the last two years," said Weaver, who is 6-6 this season after going a combined 24-9 over his first two major league seasons. "Guys have tried to make adjustments on me and I've tried to make adjustments on them."

Credit pitching coach Mike Butcher with the latest tweak, a mental adjustment in which Weaver committed to being more assertive after his last start against Seattle.

"It's just going out there and being aggressive, going as hard as you can as long as you can," Butcher said. "Ultimately, what happens is his control gets better."

Weaver walked only one batter and gave up four hits and one run during the Angels' first victory in five games this season against Tampa Bay. The only blemish came in the eighth inning, when Gabe Gross homered to right-center field.

"He was pitch-efficient against a team that's been putting a lot of runs on the board," Manager Mike Scioscia said of Weaver, who threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of 27 Rays batters.

The Angels hitters backed Weaver with a virtual onslaught by their standards, scoring their most runs since a 10-2 victory over the Dodgers on May 18 in which Weaver was also the beneficiary.

A four-run outburst in the first inning against Rays starter James Shields (4-5) gave Weaver plenty of breathing room, and Vladimir Guerrero's two-run homer in the fifth pretty much put the game out of reach.

Shields, who is scheduled to begin a six-game suspension today for his role in instigating a brawl last week against the Boston Red Sox, might have wished the punishment started a day early when the Angels sent nine batters to the plate in the first inning. Garret Anderson hit a two-run homer and Howie Kendrick and Jeff Mathis added run-scoring hits.

"The boys putting up four runs in the first was a lot of pressure off my shoulders," Weaver said. "I wanted to get first-pitch strikes and make good pitches after that."

Weaver appeared to be in trouble in the fifth when Evan Longoria led off with his second double of the game and Willy Aybar walked to put two runners on base with nobody out.

But Dioner Navarro grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, with first baseman Casey Kotchman scooping shortstop Maicer Izturis' throw out of the dirt, and Gross struck out to end the inning.

"This is obviously an outing that you'd like to build off of," Butcher said of Weaver's fourth victory in his last five starts.

Said Weaver: "You always try to build off your good [outings] and take the same mentality."

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ben.bolch@latimes.com

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