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A good start for Jered Weaver

He pitches into the seventh inning, and Kendry Morales and Juan Rivera have the big hits against the Mariners.

September 10, 2009|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

A potent offense has pushed the Angels to the brink of another American League West title, but if they are to hold off the Texas Rangers and play deep into October, the Angels will need the kind of starting pitching they've gotten in the past two weeks.

Jered Weaver gave up two runs, seven hits and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings Wednesday night, and closer Brian Fuentes shook off Tuesday's blown save by retiring all three batters he faced in the ninth inning of a 6-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners in Angel Stadium.

Kendry Morales keyed a four-run first inning with a three-run double, and Juan Rivera provided insurance with a two-run home run in the eighth -- it was the team's second homer in 68 innings -- as the Angels maintained their 4 1/2 -game lead over the Rangers.

Angels starters -- Weaver, John Lackey, Scott Kazmir, Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana -- have yielded two runs or less in 12 of the last 14 games, and they have combined for a 1.59 earned-run average in the last 11 games.

"It's a great feeling to have five guys with big league experience in the rotation," Weaver said after improving to 15-5 and lowering his ERA to 3.76. "We've had our bumps and bruises, and guys filled in and did a good job, but it's nice to have five guys who know how to finish it out in this race we have going on here."

They're also going to need the kind of shut-down relief Fuentes provided Wednesday night, one night after giving up a game-tying home run and blowing a save to the Mariners.

Fuentes began warming in the eighth, when the Angels had a 4-2 lead, but when Rivera crushed a two-out, two-run home run to center field to push the lead to 6-2 -- and eliminate the save situation -- Manager Mike Scioscia opted to start Trevor Bell in the ninth.

The move backfired when Bell walked Bill Hall to open the inning and gave up a double to Mike Carp that put runners on second and third.

Scioscia then summoned Fuentes, who got Kenji Johjima to foul out to first, the runners holding.

Pinch-hitter Mike Sweeney, who hit the home run off Fuentes on Tuesday night, sent a grounder toward the middle that shortstop Erick Aybar fielded behind the second-base bag and fired to first for the out, Hall scoring to make it 6-3.

Fuentes then got Ichiro Suzuki to ground out to third to end the game.

"His breaking ball was around the plate, and he had good command with his fastball," Scioscia said of Fuentes, who recorded his 40th save.

Weaver retired the first seven batters he faced, four by strikeout, before giving up a solo home run to Johjima in the third.

Third baseman Chone Figgins' spectacular back-hand diving stop of Adrian Beltre's fourth-inning grounder and throw to first with a runner on second saved a run, but Weaver gave up another solo homer, to Jose Lopez, in the sixth.

Darren Oliver got the last two outs of the seventh, and Kevin Jepsen struck out two in a scoreless eighth to help Weaver secure the 50th win of his career.

"It's a great accomplishment," Weaver said. "But we still have a lot of work to do here."

The Angels drew 32 walks in their previous five games, an average of 6.4 a game, and their first-inning rally Wednesday began with -- what else? -- a one-out walk to Maicer Izturis.

Bobby Abreu reached on an infield single, and Vladimir Guerrero singled off the wall in right field to load the bases.

Torii Hunter walked to force in a run, and Morales drove his double into the gap in left-center to make it 4-0 and give the first baseman 98 runs batted in on the season.

"Our guys were patient in the first -- they got some walks and some hits with runners in scoring position," Scioscia said.

"Torii's walk was the key. Vlad was trying to go the other way, and Kendry went the other way too. They didn't try to do too much. There were good at-bats all around."


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