Weaver unable to deliver against powerful Royals
Right-hander missing on location in pair of starts to open 2015
ANAHEIM -- Jered Weaver was having a perfectly fine Saturday until the Kansas City Royals showed up with bad intentions in the fourth inning at Angel Stadium, brandishing a level of power rarely associated with the amazingly efficient 2014 American League champions.
These guys can rake. They took Weaver, the Angels' cross-firing tower, to the woodshed on their way to a 6-4 victory, the Royals' 14th in a row against AL competition dating to last October. They've opened the season with five emphatic wins, while the Halos are 2-3 and searching for answers.
"Their lineup is deeper than at any time last year," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "They've got a lot of lefty/righty balance. It's a deep lineup with [Salvador] Perez hitting eighth. They're playing well, doing a lot of things right. No doubt they're a strong club now."
Opening the fourth, Mike Moustakas launched a fastball so deep into the seats in center field that not even Mike Trout, a man able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, could intercept it.
Weaver was one out from escaping without further damage with two runners in scoring position. But Alex Rios, an experienced newcomer to the troupe along with Kendrys Morales, banged a two-strike, two-run single to left.
When Perez unloaded on a hanging 2-2 changeup, lifting it into the seats in left, the damage was done. Here was the knockout blow.
"He swung through two changeups -- maybe it was one too many," Weaver said. "But there was more than one pitch that wasn't located right. I've just got to figure it out and get back to where I ended the season last year."
On Opening Day in Seattle, Weaver yielded four runs across six innings in a 4-1 loss to Felix Hernandez. This was a frustrating rerun.
"Same story," Weaver said. "I couldn't locate like I wanted to. I was falling behind, walking guys. I just wasn't very good."
Weaver appeared in good form out of the chute, striking out the side in the first around a Moustakas walk. After another walk in the second was erased on a double-play grounder struck by Rios, Weaver cruised through a perfect third.
All the components making Weaver who he is -- an elite craftsman taking his place with the best in franchise history -- seemed to be in place. But then, suddenly, everything was out of whack. The big guy from Simi Valley, northwest of Los Angeles, was getting whacked by a club that finished dead last in home runs in the AL last season.
"His delivery is complicated," Scioscia said. "It adds deception, but at times he's trying to get back in sync. He's high-maintenance. They got some big two-out hits. He could have cleaned it up that inning, but he couldn't get through the fourth."
After two starts, Weaver is 0-2 with a 8.71 ERA. He looked and felt good all spring, and he was coming off an AL-best 18-win season. This early bruising is nothing close to what Weaver anticipated.
"He's going to be fine," Scioscia said. "This is really a release-point issue with Weave now. He'll figure it out. He always does."
The focus inevitably falls on Weaver's mid-80s fastball, but that misses the point in the view of Kansas City cleanup man Eric Hosmer.
"They talk about his fastball, but it doesn't look like it's 85 miles an hour when you're facing him," Hosmer said. "With his extension and reach with that big wingspan, it gets in on you. It's a tough at-bat.
"The second time around [the lineup], we did a good job of staying in our zone and not chasing. As a team, we like to swing the bats, but we had some good at-bats against a guy who's really tough."
The radar gun never tells the Weaver story. It's always about location, movement and deception. When he's putting the ball where he wants it, he gets outs and wins games. Only Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia have more wins than Weaver's 131 since his debut in 2006.
This was a rough night all around for big-name pitchers. The Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw got cuffed around in Arizona and is looking at an unsightly 5.84 ERA. The Padres knocked out Giants World Series star Madison Bumgarner, hiking his ERA to 5.40.
These strange developments are not uncommon in April. If they're still happening in June and July, it's time to worry.