Weaver, Guerrero highlight win over Sox
Matthews also shines with two stellar defensive plays
CHICAGO -- With Vladimir Guerrero providing the power, Jered Weaver the precision and Gary Matthews Jr. the perfection, the Angels succeeded again Saturday in slowing the White Sox Express.
Weaver held the Sox to three hits in eight innings before turning it over to Francisco Rodriguez for the finishing touches in a 2-0 decision in front of 38,438 at U.S. Cellular Field. Weaver is 3-0 with a 0.34 career ERA against Chicago in four starts.
Winners of eight in a row when the Angels showed up, the Windy City crew now grips a two-game losing streak. The Halos have taken six of eight, hiking their MLB-best road record to 16-10.
After claiming two of three in Toronto, the Angels go for a series sweep Sunday night with John Lackey on the mound against Jose Contreras.
"The last three starts," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, taking inventory of Weaver's work, "stuff-wise he's much closer to what we saw a couple years ago [in 2006 when Weaver launched his career with nine straight wins]. It might even be better.
"The ball's coming out of his hand hot -- that's what you want to see. Jered was hitting his good spots all day long. Great game."
Informed of Scioscia's comments, Weaver -- who a few days earlier had an intestinal blockage removed -- looked pleased.
"He's good with the eye," Weaver said. "He's seen a lot of pitchers over the years. It's good for me to hear that."
The secret to his recent run -- 20 1/3 innings, two earned runs -- is twofold: Weaver has stopped thinking too much and slowed down his delivery.
"I don't worry about who's at bat," he said. "I'm pitching to the mitt, not the batter. I slowed the tempo a little to try not to be too quick and let my arm catch up."
Weaver credited pitching coach Mike Butcher with smoothing over the technical aspects and his psyche, urging the 6-foot-7 right-hander "not to stress so much."
Weaver matched his effort of Aug. 29, 2007, in Seattle for his longest career outing. It was the fourth time in 58 career starts he has lasted more than seven innings. He's 4-5 this season and 28-14 in his career.
While Weaver was keeping the Sox as silent as Joe Saunders had Friday night for 8 1/3 innings, Guerrero was showing that an alteration in his stroke has elevated the baseball -- and his mood.
Serving as the designated hitter with Matthews emulating Roberto Clemente in right, Guerrero busted open a scoreless game with a 414-foot homer to left center leading off the sixth inning against John Danks.
"I'm trying to do something I do in batting practice," Guerrero said, having homered three times in the past four games after producing four in the first 47. "I'm staying inside the ball so I can get more lift. I don't like fly-ball outs, but I don't like line-drive outs either.
"If I can get them up far enough in the air, nobody's going to catch them."
Falling to 3-4, Danks, like most Guerrero victims, wasn't sure what hit him.
"I put a ball on a tee for him," said Danks, who yielded the second run in the inning on Torii Hunter's double, then Casey Kotchman's RBI single against reliever Octavio Dotel. "No, it was just a bad changeup. I can second-guess myself all I want, but that's been a very effective pitch for me against him -- especially later in at-bats. I didn't think he'd be sitting on it so early in the count.
"I just threw it in a very bad place."
When Guerrero is in tune with the universe, there are no good places to throw it. As for looking for something ... that's just not Vlad's style at all.
"I don't go up looking for pitches," he said. "I don't even know what I hit -- something in the strike zone."
Matthews, on the other hand, knew exactly what he was doing on what Scioscia called "as good [a play] as you can make."
Nick Swisher led off the bottom of the fifth with a whistling shot headed toward the right-field corner. Matthews, anticipating that he wouldn't be able to plant and make a spinning pivot given the proximity of the dirt track, went to his knees, sliding to cut it off.
Jumping to his feet, he whirled and fired a strike to Brandon Wood -- making his first career start at shortstop -- for the tag on Swisher.
"The ball almost jarred loose from my glove," Matthews said. "The grip was a little deep in my hand. I think it would have been a lower throw if I could have gotten a better grip on it."
Reviewing video of the play, Matthews admitted it looked better than it felt in making it.
"It changes the whole complexion of the game," Weaver said. "The play was unbelievable. For him to slide out, get on his feet and make a strong throw, [that] was a confidence builder for me."
It looked even better when Brian Anderson beat another strong throw, from Juan Rivera in left, for a double. Anderson was stranded when Weaver struck out ex-teammate Orlando Cabrera.
Reaching base three times with a double, single and walk from the leadoff spot, Matthews ended a superlative game with a sprawling catch of Jermaine Dye's line drive to right center. The perfect ninth gave K-Rod his 21st save in 22 chances.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.