Angels need more starts like Weaver's gem

June 19th, 2016

OAKLAND -- Mike Scioscia is a firm believer in momentum. He also believes that an Angels turnaround this season will begin with the rotation, which must string together quality starts.

Jered Weaver did that and more Sunday, spinning a masterful shutout in a 2-0 win over the A's, delivering his strongest start of the season for his sixth win. It was Weaver's eighth career shutout and 14th complete game, something he hasn't done since May 8, 2015, against the Astros.

"I was able to locate pretty good. I just wanted to go out there and pitch to contact," Weaver said. "They put the bat on the ball but luckily they were at people … It was nice to get deep in the game."

This season has been a struggle for the 33-year-old. He entered the game on a two-game losing streak with a 5.71 ERA and had given up 18 homers, the second-most in the Majors. With Tim Lincecum's addition to the rotation and the Angels expecting the return of Nick Tropeano and Andrew Heaney from the disabled list, the longest-tenured Angel has faced questions about whether he'd be relegated to bullpen duty.

He responded by showing his best fastball command of the year, according to Scioscia.

"He's shown signs of it this year. Maybe not with the same results, but he's had this stuff before and pitched well, but maybe not enough to get through the nine innings," Scioscia said.

Weaver acknowledged his fastball velocity, which sits between 83 and 85 mph, isn't what it used to be.

"I know I'm not a guy anymore who is going to go out there and strike people out," Weaver said.

He didn't need to. Weaver allowed only four baserunners and gave up one hit -- Billy Butler was thrown out by Mike Trout in the sixth trying to stretch it to a double -- between the third and seventh innings. He didn't strike a batter out until the eighth inning, forced eight weak fly-ball outs, and polished off the A's on 95 pitches.

Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt admitted Weaver frustrated the A's.

"I felt like, up and down the lineup, myself included, we didn't make him work today," Vogt said. "He was very, very good, but we didn't make him work. He's the kind of guy that feeds off aggression, and a guy like him, every pitch looks like you can hammer it, and that's just not the case."

The Angels are now 31-38, and Scioscia said prior to Sunday's win they'd need solid performances two or three times through their rotation to climb in the standings. Los Angeles starters have now allowed two runs or fewer in their last four starts, and the Angels have won four of their last five games.

It will take even more against tougher teams than the 28-41 A's, but the Angels are gaining confidence in their pitching.

"The rotation sets the tone, and it's the heartbeat of your club," Scioscia said. "Ours needs to do what we saw this week on a consistent basis."