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Weaver figures it out, with Butcher's help

The right-hander is at his best in the Angels' 2-0 victory over the White Sox and says he's in a better frame of mind after a talk with pitching coach.

May 25, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Jered Weaver resolved a little plumbing issue this past week when doctors removed a small blockage in his stomach, relieving the pitcher of the digestive problems that have bothered him since spring training.

But it was a little mental surgery by pitching coach Mike Butcher, who extracted some non-constructive thoughts rattling around in Weaver's head, that triggered the right-hander's recent run of dominance.

Weaver delivered the best start of his career Saturday, giving up three hits in eight shutout innings and striking out six to lead the Angels to their fifth win in six games, a 2-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox in U.S. Cellular Field.

That Weaver (4-5) shut down the White Sox is nothing new -- he has a 3-0 record and a fast-pitch-softball-like 0.34 earned-run average in five career starts against them.

That he has shut them down twice in his last three starts, a stretch in which he's given up two runs and nine hits in 20 1/3 innings for an 0.89 ERA, might surprise those who saw Weaver get rocked for eight runs and 10 hits in 3 1/3 innings of a 9-4 loss at Kansas City on May 7.

That game left Weaver with a 2-5 record and 5.59 ERA and a head filled with self-doubt.

"I said when I first came up I was going to pitch my game until people start figuring me out," Weaver said that day. "And people are starting to figure me out."

Butcher saw those comments and decided Weaver needed a little attitude adjustment.

"It was one of those funky little things pitchers go through, where you're thinking too much, trying to do too much instead of trying to keep things simple and pitch your game," Weaver said. "He pulled me aside and said don't stress out so much, go out and pitch your game, pitch to the mitt. I took that and ran with it.

"That was the first time where I've found myself thinking too much instead of going out there and throwing. As soon as I got that knocked out of my head and built up some confidence again, it's been a lot better for me."

Weaver, throwing his fastball and curve to both sides of the plate, retired the last 11 batters he faced Saturday before giving way to closer Francisco Rodriguez, who threw a one-two-three ninth for his major league-leading 21st save.

Only two White Sox runners reached second, and a superb play by right fielder Gary Matthews Jr. prevented another from reaching second in the fifth.

Nick Swisher led off with what looked to be a sure double into the right-field corner, but Matthews made a sliding stop of the ball on the warning track, got up and fired to second to nail Swisher by several feet.

"That was an unbelievable play -- it changed the complexion of the game," Weaver said. "It was a big confidence booster for me."

And a run-saver, because Brian Anderson followed with a double into the left-field corner, a hit that would have easily scored Swisher from second.

"That's as good a play as you're going to see," Manager Mike Scioscia said, "and it was big at the time."

Vladimir Guerrero hit White Sox left-hander John Danks' first pitch of the sixth inning over the wall in left-center for his seventh home run and third in four days to give the Angels a 1-0 lead.

Torii Hunter doubled to left, and reliever Octavio Dotel walked Juan Rivera. Casey Kotchman singled to left, scoring Hunter for a 2-0 lead, and when left fielder Carlos Quentin overthrew home plate for an error, the runners advanced to second and third with no outs.

But Dotel struck out Jeff Mathis, Brandon Wood and Sean Rodriguez to escape further damage, adding to an afternoon of offensive frustration in which the Angels went one for 11 with runners in scoring position. They've also scored three runs or less in 10 of their last 15 games.

"Our rotation and bullpen have gotten in line, and we're supporting them with great defense, but the offense has to pick it up," Scioscia said. "We got lucky today. We left way too many runners in scoring position with less than two outs. We have to get better at that. It's that simple."

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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