More than another personal milestone, Jered Weaver wanted a victory Sunday at Angel Stadium to keep his team in realistic playoff contention.
Facing a sudden crisis threatening both ambitions, the Angels ace confronted a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox and was about to throw his 11th pitch to Alex Rios.
"Try to get a groundball or a strikeout," Weaver said he told himself. "Not a pop fly. Locate down."
Weaver's pitch, a 79-mph changeup, made Rios swing and miss. He then retired A.J. Pierzynski on a fielder's choice to shortstop, embarking on five more scoreless innings to set up the Angels' 4-1 victory and three-game sweep of the White Sox.
The victory keeps the Angels 2 1/2 games behind the Oakland Athletics for the American League's second wild-card playoff spot with nine games remaining. The Angels trail wild-card leader Baltimore by 3 1/2 games.
Oakland travels to first-place Texas on Monday and the Angels open a three-game home series against the last-place Seattle Mariners on Tuesday.
"Any win is important now," Weaver said.
Weaver's victory was his career-high 19th of the season, the most by an Angel since John Lackey's 19 in 2007.
Manager Mike Scioscia praised his pitcher's 6 1/3-inning, one-run effort as Weaver (19-4) endured heat that rose from 94 degrees at game time while throwing 112 pitches.
"The first inning was long," Scioscia said of Weaver's 33-pitch frame. "We thought we might pay a price. Weaver is just … he knows what he's doing out there and is great adjusting to situations."
Weaver showed the dominant form that has made him the AL's wins and batting-average-against leader, starting in the second inning a streak of 12 consecutive outs that lasted until slugger Paul Konerko singled with two outs in the sixth.
"I just tried to slow things down, I was getting rushed early," Weaver said. " … It was tough, they made me work by taking pitches … but I settled down, focused on mechanics."
Gavin Floyd (10-11) didn't let an Angel reach second base until Howie Kendrick doubled in the fifth inning, but Floyd responded with the seventh of his eight strikeouts.
Then, AL runs leader Mike Trout drew a one-out walk against Floyd in the sixth inning and Torii Hunter singled to bring up Albert Pujols, who hit a two-run double off the left-field wall.
Kendrys Morales followed with a two-run home run to right field, his 22nd of the season.
The double moved Pujols past the 100 runs-batted-in threshold for the 11th time in 12 seasons and his three hits raised his batting average to .286. It was his 46th double, second-most in the AL.
Solid numbers, especially in a season that began with Pujols' homerless April and much angst about the Angels' 10-year, $240-million investment in the free agent who was a three-time National League most valuable player in St. Louis.
Pujols also has 30 home runs for his seventh 30-home run, 40-double, 100-RBI campaign.