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Saturday, June 04, 2011

Seven Tries Later, Weaver Gets His Seventh Win: Angels 3, Yankees 2

Coming out of April, Jered Weaver was one of the two reasons the Angels spent unexpected time at the head of the AL West. With six straight victories, all of them convincing, he looked like he might be an early Cy Young contender. Contrast that with May, though, where he looked merely competent but otherwise unremarkable, rattling off three quality starts in five tries (and two of those missing by only an extra run). This is not a team that, like the Yankees, will give their pitchers an extra leg up with run support, so Weaver narrowly avoided joining the ranks of .500 pitchers.

Last night started with an explosion, Weaver locked against Jeter in a 15-pitch at-bat that saw the Yankees captain foul off 9 straight. I haven't seen such a battle in person since Alex Cora's 18-pitch at bat against Matt Clement. Unlike the general ennui filling the crowd in the seventh inning of that game (the Dodgers were ahead 2-0 in the seventh and the Wave was going on during this taut battle), Angels fans were very much into it. Fortunately, the thing ended with a fly ball out to center, but after that one at-bat, Weaver's future in the game was immediately called into question.

Two batters later, and things looked even worse, as he left the first inning with 27 pitches on the odometer. I steeled myself for another bullpen loss; this pen just doesn't have what it takes to get through the Yankees for more than a couple innings, and asking them to come in in, say, the fourth or fifth and finish a game is begging for trouble. After Weav threw 26 pitches in the second, and gave up a run doing it, I was utterly convinced this was going to get ugly around the fifth or sixth.

Yet, it never happened. Weaver got out of the third on ten pitches, and though it took him another 26 to escape the fourth (while letting the lead slip from his fingers), he never again needed more than 20 pitches to get through a frame.

In that, the Yankees had some of their own woes exposed. Derek Jeter's 2011 has a lot of 0-fers, and his .327 OBP is the lowest of any season with more than 200 plate appearances. In fact, Weaver kept all of the Yankees' top three hitters off the basepaths entirely, save for a walk to Jeter in the fifth.

The Angels offense did a good enough job against Ivan Nova, one of surprisingly only six Yankee starters used by the team this year. For all their pitching woes have been advertised, they are fourth in the league in starter's ERA, behind Seattle, Oakland, and the Angels. The Halos got to him immediately in the first for a couple of runs on Bobby Abreu's RBI double and Alberto Callaspo's scoring groundout. Again in the fourth, the Angels loaded the bases with one out, and Peter Bourjos drove in what proved to be the winning run. But everyone else, Bourjos included, was stranded after Nova struck out Izturis and got Aybar to fly out to left.

Weaver ran his pitch count up to an absurd 119 tosses, sparing the Angels having to use Rich Thompson against the bottom of the Yankees order, a move that seemed to me to be a bad idea given that group's relative scuffling. Bourjos came in again to save the day with a fine running catch to nab Jorge Posada's second consecutive hard-hit ball of the game. As Kevin Goldstein tweeted during the game last night,

Whenever they show Peter Bourjos running I think they've sped up the video.
I like those legs working for our pitchers.

Before I go, I should mention Russell Martin, who had a rare Bill Dwyre piece written about him yesterday. While I'm happy for Martin that he's doing well in New York, I have to wonder how long he'll keep up that .452 slugging average, over a hundred points higher than anything he posted in the last two years. I'm betting he doesn't.

ESPN BoxAngels recap

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