Halos get past Rangers on strength of HRs, Weaver
Trout, Pujols, Freese go deep; righty is first 18-game winner in AL
ANAHEIM -- Jered Weaver is the mostly stoic, sometimes fiery and consistently solid ace the Angels have leaned on through injuries this season and losing the past few seasons.
But after another sterling performance in an 8-5 Angels win over Texas on Saturday night, Weaver has put a new description on the Angels' minds -- fun.
"It's fun to play behind him, it's fun to watch when he paints up, he's just painting out there," said Mike Trout, who -- along with Albert Pujols and David Freese -- homered in support of the veteran right-hander.
"It's fun to watch Jered like that," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think he's going out there and he feels like he has every tool that he needs to go out there and pitch at the level that we know he can pitch at."
Backed by three Angels home runs, Weaver delivered seven-plus strong innings, his second consecutive start of at least seven innings, this time allowing three runs on five hits while striking out seven. Last Saturday, Weaver struck out a season-high 12 batters as he limited the Astros to one run.
In his last two starts, Weaver -- who won his league-leading 18th game Saturday -- has looked untouchable, posting a .184 opponents' batting average.
"Jered picked up where he was for the last couple of outings," Scioscia said. "The stuff has really picked up. He's really comfortable with his mechanics, the ball's coming out of his hand as well as it has in four or five years. It's fun to watch."
Weaver said this was the best he's felt in "three or four years" and that he finally feels over some shoulder tightness that had lingered the past few seasons. With one more start before he takes the ball in Game 1 of the American League Division Series, Weaver is rounding into postseason form.
"[Before recently], I just wasn't throwing the ball like I knew I was capable of," Weaver said. "It's been a long process trying to knock that out and, at the same time, trying to gain some strength back."
The 31-year-old right-hander's fastball has seen an uptick in velocity recently, while his strike percentage of 70 in his last two starts is significantly higher than the 63 percent he sported in his first 30 starts.
"I think he's very comfortable with where he is right now, where his game is, and hopefully, it's going to be something he's going to maintain for a long time," Scioscia said.
Just how long, though, could depend on Weaver. With the rest of the Angels' starting rotation a question mark, Weaver's start in Game 1 of the ALDS is pivotal to the club's postseason chances. He could even be relied on to pitch a potential Game 4 on three days' rest.
One start this coming Friday in Seattle stands between Weaver and his first playoff game in five years, but he refused to look ahead.
"We still have to go out there and play games and carry our momentum moving forward," Weaver said. "We have to play these games like they are playoff games, treat every at-bat like it's an important one and every pitch like it's an important one."
Weaver has thrown few duds this season, instead keeping the Angels in the game until their bats could score runs or their bullpen could lock it down. In his 32 starts this season, Weaver has exited a game losing by more than two runs only three times.
"It's been impressive," Trout said. "It's what he's capable of doing. He's been working hard trying to improve every day, and since Day 1, he's been improving. He gives us a good chance every time he goes out there, that's what you have an ace for."
At this point in the season, with a division title wrapped up and home-field in the ALDS locked up, the Angels only have one item left to check off their checklist -- capture the AL's best record. With Saturday's win, the Angels' lead over Baltimore for the best record in the AL remained at 2 1/2 games.
Trout, Pujols and Howie Kendrick -- the Angels' Nos. 2-4 hitters -- combined to go 8-for-11 with five runs scored, five RBIs and two home runs.
Trout -- who walked and scored in the first inning -- blasted a two-run shot to center field in the third, his 35th home run of the season. Two innings later, Trout narrowly missed his second home run of the game when he bounced a triple off the raised wall in right-center.
But Pujols drove in Trout with a towering home run to left-center-field that gave Pujols 100 RBIs on the season. Freese gave the Angels an eight-run lead with a three-run blast in the fifth.