Weaver dominant in beating Rangers
Righty gets just enough offense to earn his first victory
ANAHEIM -- Deception in his delivery is a big part of Jered Weaver's game, his long, wiry frame and elaborate release sometimes making a 90-mph fastball look closer to 98 to the hitter.
It was a different kind of deception that enabled Weaver to get through seven shutout innings on Saturday night in a 2-1 decision over the Rangers in front of 41,170 at Angel Stadium.
Bluffing his way through, acting as if he had control when he knew he didn't, Weaver delivered one of the most impressive performances of his budding career.
"That's how you become a big-time winner," Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher said, having helped catcher Jeff Mathis guide Weaver through his difficult night. "You've got to feel like you have your best stuff -- even if you have to fake it."
Torii Hunter -- honored before the game as the 2007 Marvin Miller Man of the Year in a vote of his peers -- drove in the decisive run against losing pitcher Kevin Millwood with a fifth-inning double after Howard Kendrick's RBI single had broken a scoreless duel an inning earlier.
Weaver had deduced right out of the chute that it wasn't going to be easy. The zip in his fastball wasn't there, forcing him to get by with guile and style while managing to convince the Rangers that he felt a lot better than he did.
After the first inning, Weaver came to Butcher in the dugout and told him he "didn't have a thing," the coach related.
Butcher's response? "I told him, `Just keep making pitches. And you can't show emotion or weakness.'"
Weaver got the message. In the fourth inning, with two runners on and one out, he struck out Hank Blalock with a changeup and threw his best fastball of the night past Marlon Byrd, pumping his fist after finishing him off.
"He got up to 90 [mph] on that one," Butcher said. "Earlier, he was throwing 83, 85, in that range. You have to have great poise to win on a night like that. What he did tonight was pretty special."
Manager Mike Scioscia, calling Weaver "a talented kid," praised him for "changing speeds and winning without his best stuff."
Millwood, the veteran right-hander, was in and out of trouble all night while ending a league-record 195 games without a complete game by the Rangers in a losing effort.
The Angels put together singles by Garret Anderson, Casey Kotchman and Kendrick for a run in the fourth, and singles by Gary Matthews Jr. (who had three hits) and Vladimir Guerrero and a double by Hunter made it 2-0 in the fifth.
A double play got Millwood out of that jam, and a perfect throw by Byrd in center nailed Erick Aybar at the plate, allowing Millwood to escape unscathed in the sixth.
Retiring the last 11 men he faced, striking out six in the game, Weaver departed after 93 pitches, 60 in the strike zone.
"I got some early outs late," he said, delivering a Yogi-ism. What he meant was he managed to get early-count outs as the game wore on, helping him through his seven innings.
Taking over in the eighth, Darren Oliver was greeted by a solo homer by David Murphy. Justin Speier got the third out in the inning, turning it over to closer Francisco Rodriguez.
K-Rod finished off the Rangers by retiring pinch-hitter Frank Catalanotto after a two-out double by Blalock.
"You know it's a good thing any time you get to Frankie," Weaver said, grinning.
In the absence of John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar, Weaver and Jon Garland have been thrust into more prominent rotation roles.
Garland, who takes the mound on Sunday in the series finale, worked eight brilliant innings in his Angels debut in Minnesota, holding the Twins to one run.
"You've got a guy like Garland, he's a real smart pitcher, I'm finding out," Weaver said. "Lackey, I've been working off his energy, and Escobar's, the last three years.
"You don't want to think of it as an added responsibility with your two horses out. You just want to compete the way you usually do. You have to kind of step up and stay within yourself, go from there."
Weaver all spring showed the form that he brought into the Majors in 2006 when he won the first nine decisions of his rookie year. Injuries set him back last season, when he was 13-7, but a dominant spring convinced him he'd rediscovered the right stuff.
Mathis called all the right pitches for Weaver and assisted him with a perfect strike to Kotchman that erased Blalock at first in the second inning.
Weaver said he didn't know if he had a "dead arm" in his second start, having gone 6 1/3 innings in a 3-2 loss to the Twins. But he was sure there was nothing wrong with Mathis' arm.
"That was a bullet," Weaver said.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.