Weaver's soft stuff confounds O's hitters

May 22nd, 2016

ANAHEIM -- Mike Trout was merely playing spectator in center field, and even he couldn't figure out Jered Weaver.

As the day wore on and the mighty Orioles hitters continued to be flummoxed by Weaver's unique array of pitches, Trout found himself playing along, trying to guess which pitch the Angels' longtime ace would throw next, be it the low-80s fastball or the mid-70s changeup or the high-60s curve.

"He got me every time," Trout said Sunday, moments after Weaver had set the tone in a 10-2, sweep-avoiding victory from Angel Stadium. "He just keeps you so off balance. It's frustrating. It has to be. I'm just happy I'm out in center field."

The Orioles began play on Sunday with the fifth-highest OPS in the game, but Weaver shut them out through the first six frames and finished twirling seven innings of two-run ball, Jonathan Schoop's seventh-inning two-run homer serving as the only ball the Orioles hit particularly hard.

Weaver only threw 35 percent of his pitches for fastballs and mixed in 41 breaking pitches, relying heavily on a loopy curveball that was thrown as slowly as 67 mph.

"The front door was locked, the back door was bolted, so I was coming in through the chimney today," is how Weaver described it.

The curveball, Weaver said, "was more consistent than it has been, a little bit sharper. It's coming along. Still not where I want to be, but it was a better day of being able to repeat my pitches."

Weaver scattered five hits, walked one and struck out six. He recorded three caught-looking strikeouts in the fourth inning, on an 82-mph fastball to Manny Machado, an 85-mph fastball to Chris Davis and a 68-mph curveball to Mark Trumbo.

Machado wound up striking out three times against Weaver, one day after doing the same against Matt Shoemaker, the first pitcher to ever punch him out three times in a single game. Weaver also got Machado to swing through an 84-mph fastball in the first and a 67-mph curveball in the sixth.

"It was tough to see that ball out of those rocks today," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said, alluding to the left-center-field rock pile that is located almost precisely behind the point where Weaver releases the baseball. "He's working with a generous strike zone. I think he threw 64 out of 100 pitches off-speed. We're going to see a lot of that."

Weaver's neck stiffened up around the third inning, but it loosened up thereafter. He recorded nine of his 21 outs on softly hit fly balls, but hung a 1-1, 70-mph curveball to Schoop, who drove it into the Angels' bullpen to put Baltimore on the board.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia walked briskly to the mound at that point, with Weaver at 100 pitches and one of his relievers ready to enter.

"I just wanted to check his pulse a little bit," Scioscia said. "Almost literally check his pulse."

Weaver told his manager that he "felt great" and was allowed to stay in the game.

Three pitches later, he got Caleb Joseph to fly out to center field, completing seven innings for the second straight outing and the third time in nine tries this season. Weaver's ERA had ballooned to 6.10 on May 12, after giving up eight runs and completing only four innings against the visiting Cardinals.

But it's back down to 5.33, and he remains hopeful of improvement.

"There's some good days and bad days," Weaver said. "It's not very fun going out there, but I'm going to go out there and compete. If I get hit around, I'm going to take my beating like a man. If I go out there and keep the team in the game and we're able to win, that's a plus overall. I'm definitely not where I want to be. But today was a good sign that it's headed in the right direction."