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ANGELS 3, INDIANS 0

Angels' Jered Weaver stands tall against Indians

He pitches a seven-hit shutout as Angels increase AL West lead to 61/2 games over Texas.

August 20, 2009|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

CLEVELAND — There was a time, not too long ago, when the Angels seemed to have an artificial pitch limit of about 100 for Jered Weaver, because his stuff often tailed off considerably beyond that point.

And because Weaver lacked a dominant put-away pitch in his first few years in the big leagues, 100 pitches usually only took him to the sixth, maybe seventh inning.

Now look at the 26-year-old right-hander, the Iron Man of the Angels' rotation.

Weaver threw a seven-hit shutout in a 3-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians in Progressive Field on Wednesday night, and he now ranks third in the American League with four complete games. Weaver had no complete games in his first three seasons.

Weaver had 103 pitches through eight innings, and there wasn't even a discussion between him and Manager Mike Scioscia in the dugout. This game belonged to Weaver, who needed 116 pitches to finish his second career shutout.

"Scioscia let me go out there for the ninth -- it was nice," said Weaver, who improved to 13-4 and lowered his earned-run average to 3.89. "When you get a couple of years under your belt, I guess he lets you go."

Coming off his worst start of the season -- 3 1/3 innings, eight runs, nine hits in last Friday night's 16-6 loss in Baltimore -- Weaver pitched one of his best games, striking out three, walking one and never facing more than four batters in an inning.

The Angels bunched three of their four hits, including Kendry Morales' double and Howie Kendrick's two-run single, in a three-run fifth to extend their winning streak to five, improve to 24-8 since the All-Star break and push their AL West lead over Texas to 6 1/2 games.

They also extended their errorless streak to 61 innings, with third baseman Chone Figgins making several superb plays, including his back-hand snag of Kelly Shoppach's one-hop smash and long throw to first to end the second inning.

"[Mike] Napoli called a great game, the defense did a great job, and we put up some runs," Weaver said. "It was a good team win."

If the Angels are to play deeper into October, they will need at least two pitchers from the group of Weaver, Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders to step up to ace John Lackey's level as an elite starter.

Saunders is on the disabled list, and Santana has struggled all season with elbow problems, but Weaver has the makings of a guy the Angels can count on come playoff time, especially after his performance Wednesday night.

"I liked how he finished strong," Scioscia said. "He bounced back from a tough start in Baltimore, and his last 10-12 pitches were terrific. He threw 116 pitches and still had something in the tank. That's a good sign."

Weaver is averaging 6.48 innings per start this season after averaging 5.98 innings his first three years. The key has been more pitch efficiency and a better grasp of the game.

"It comes down to being able to command the ball and get ahead in counts -- that will lead to quicker outs," Scioscia said.

"Some games last year, he had 100 pitches going into the sixth inning. This year, his put-away pitch is sometimes the second or third pitch he throws to a guy instead of the sixth or seventh pitch."

Weaver is still learning.

"It's a matter of looking up to some of these older guys, getting questions answered from guys like Lackey, Kelvim Escobar, Darren Oliver," Weaver said. "It's learning the game, taking it out there, making adjustments and hopefully things go in the right direction."

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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