Angels rally late, but fall short to Astros
Weaver gives up four homers in rocky outing lasting 5 2/3 frames
HOUSTON -- There was the first-inning changeup that grooved right down the middle, the second-inning curveball that sailed up and in, the fourth-inning fastball that wasn't quite low enough and the fifth-inning curveball that stayed high. They all sailed out of Minute Maid Park on a roof-enclosed Sunday afternoon, drawing demonstrative dejection from Angels ace Jered Weaver and leading to a 7-4 loss to the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
"It was pretty much Home Run Derby out there," Weaver said. "It's frustrating to start the year off like this, from a personal standpoint, but we have a bunch more to go."
Weaver gave up only five hits, but because four of them went for a career-high-tying four home runs -- a two-run shot by Jason Castro, followed by solo homers from Matt Dominguez, Jesus Guzman and Alex Presley, respectively -- the 31-year-old right-hander moved to 0-2 through his first two starts for the first time since 2007.
Weaver was sitting 86 to 88 mph with his fastball, which is pretty much the norm for him now, and hit 89 twice in his 100 pitches. But he didn't really establish any command with it, an issue he was searching for in Spring Training until an encouraging outing in a Minor League game six days before Opening Day.
"I feel like I'm missing up when I do throw fastballs, which is usually not the case," Weaver said after walking none and striking out six to put his ERA at 6.00. "It's flattening out as the game goes on."
The Astros got seven innings of one-run ball from ace Scott Feldman and totaled five homers in the third of a four-game series, the last one being a seventh-inning two-run shot from Jonathan Villar off Matt Shoemaker. It gave Houston a six-run lead, which proved valuable when the Angels rallied with three runs in the ninth -- before Kole Calhoun struck out with two outs while representing the tying run.
"We had seven hits and five of them were homers," Presley noted, "and that's a pretty good ratio you don't see very often."
The last time Weaver had given up four homers was Aug. 2, 2008, in New York. And the last time an Angels starter gave up four homers on five or fewer hits was Scot Shields on Sept. 11, 2003, in Oakland.
The Astros didn't get a true baserunner on until there were two outs in the sixth, when Guzman laid down a perfect bunt and Weaver made an errant, off-balance, wide throw to first, giving up an extra base just before exiting.
His arm, Weaver said, feels as good as it has in a while thanks to all the stretching exercises he did over the offseason, but he's still trying to iron out some mechanical issues.
"I'm still trying to find that thing that clicks for me," Weaver said. "I feel like I've thrown the ball well. It just hasn't been consistent mechanically for me. The way my arm is feeling now, there are no restrictions or nothing. It feels good coming out. I just have to get a feel for staying on top of that fastball. I feel I'm kind of getting underneath some fastballs and that's causing it to be elevated."
This is part of the every-five-day battle for Weaver.
He's never relied on velocity, but its absence mandates precision on all other facets. Weaver's fastball command has to be there and his location often needs to be precise in order for him to have success. And when it isn't there, days like Sunday happen.
"I think right now we're dealing with maybe his inability to get the fastball into good zones as often," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He changes speeds as well as anybody in the game, but he's got to really be able to establish that fastball in good zones to be able to do that. I know he tried to. But I don't know that he had quite the crisp command that we've seen him have -- and the command he had just a couple of years ago when he won 20 games. That wasn't based on velocity. It was based on locating, mixing and matching and changing speeds, and making pitches."