Weaver, Angels slow A's to take home finale
Ace finishes strong with seven innings, ends his season with 11th win
ANAHEIM -- Hip-hop blared from the speakers and open cardboard boxes littered the rug of the Angels' home clubhouse late Wednesday afternoon, after a 3-1 victory over the A's put them within two games of .500 but did nothing for their non-existent playoff chances.
The active players packed their duffel bags for Texas, site of a season-ending four-game series in which they'll look to hinder someone else's postseason hopes. The rookies begrudgingly squeezed into red Speedos for Dress-up Day. And the injured ones, particularly Albert Pujols, made the rounds, offering man hugs and salutations and autographs as they ventured into a long offseason.
There will be no more games at Angel Stadium in 2013, and there will be no more starts from Jered Weaver until next spring. One last time, the Angels' ace addressed the media scrum, reflecting on a season that started off hurt, finished on a high note and was frustrating all throughout.
"Personally," Weaver said, "a tough one for me."
It ended with six consecutive quality starts, capped by seven innings of one-run ball against an A's team that's fighting for home-field advantage in the playoffs, but it was hindered by those seven weeks that were lost due to the broken left elbow he suffered while bracing his fall on the Rangers Ballpark mound on April 7.
Weaver's season, his eighth in an Angels uniform, finished 11-8 with a 3.27 ERA in 24 starts. The win total is tied for the lowest of his career; his starts and innings (154 1/3) are the lowest since a 2006 season in which he didn't make his Major League debut until late May.
"I've never had that much time off and been on the [disabled list] for that long," Weaver said, and that's most certainly true. "It was one of those freak things. I told myself I wanted to finish strong and go out there and throw some good baseball games. I felt like I finished strong for the most part."
And in that vein, the Angels (78-80) have followed right along.
Their win over the A's (94-65) gave them 10 consecutive unbeaten series and put them in position of reaching .500 for the first time since April 3 if they take three of four at Rangers Ballpark. Since Aug. 23, they've hit .306 with runners in scoring position, including a couple of RBI singles on infield grounders by Josh Hamilton off Dan Straily ; their starters have posted a 3.37 ERA, including Weaver's season-ending gem; and the bullpen has allowed just 22 runs in 92 innings, including back-to-back scoreless ones from Dane De La Rosa and Ernesto Frieri in the home finale.
Over the last two games, the first of which featured a shutout by Jason Vargas, the Angels limited the first-place A's to one run in 18 innings, handing them back-to-back losses for the first time since they lost three straight Aug. 20-23.
"We're pitching," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, his team finishing with a 39-42 record at home. "When we're pitching, it gives us the opportunity to do some of the things that we need to do. Our situational hitting has improved. Although we're not driving the ball as much, we're scoring as many or more runs and I think that's indicative of the diversity of our offense. We can do a lot of things. I think it took a while for that to emerge, but we're starting to see it."
Weaver can now go into the offseason with a little better taste in his mouth.
Last year, the Angels' ace pitched the regular-season finale in Seattle, two days after his team had been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention, and Weaver made it through only one inning, souring his Cy Young chances and denying himself of a 21st win.
Weaver's final start of 2013 came on the heels of missing a turn through the rotation with lingering forearm soreness, an ailment that never bothered him on a crisp afternoon. He scattered five hits, walked one and -- with his fastball sitting mostly at 87 to 88 mph -- struck out two, putting him at 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA in his last six starts.
In his last 11 outings against the A's, the 30-year-old right-hander has a 0.87 ERA. His 29 2/3 scoreless-innings streak against them was snapped on a Jed Lowrie sac fly in the sixth inning.
"He's deceptive, throws across his body; he teases you with his fastball and can throw his curveball and changeup in any count," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Weaver, who has had to make up for an almost-yearly drop in velocity by relying more on his trademark changeup.
Nonetheless, Weaver is the fourth pitcher in Major League history -- and the first since Walter Johnson at the turn of the century -- to have at least 110 wins and 1,200 strikeouts while giving up 540 or fewer earned runs in his first eight seasons.
"At times his command was maybe not quite as locked in this year, but it's in there," Scioscia said. "This guy's a pitcher; this guy's a winner."
The Angels will finish off their season trying to shatter the postseason hopes of a Texas team that's once again fading down the stretch. On Sept. 3, the Rangers had a one-game lead on Oakland in the AL West. Since then, they rank 22nd in starting-pitcher ERA (4.22), 15th in relief-pitcher ERA (3.58) and tied for 15th in runs per game (3.84) while losing 13 of 19 games.
"A little surprised," Hamilton said, even though he went through something similar in Texas just last season. "But at some point during the season, a little bump in the road is going to happen. It's all about the right timing. Obviously, it's not the right timing in September. But I guarantee you they're going to come out and do anything they need to do to win a ballgame these next four days."