Draft Day dandy: 'Pen seals Weaver win
Right-hander strikes out six; bullpen fends off Rays' rally
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- If the Angels' bullpen is going to turn things around this season, it probably won't happen by relying too often on Tampa Bay speedster Carl Crawford to ground into a game-ending double play.
"That happens about as often as going 65 [mph] on the 101 Freeway," said Manager Mike Scioscia.
Crawford's first double play of the season, a 4-6-3 ground ball induced by closer Brian Fuentes, secured a 4-3 victory in front of 16,087 fans on Tuesday at Tropicana Field.
That one rarity gave Fuentes his American League-leading 16th save, preserved yet another pitching victory for All-Star-in-waiting Jered Weaver and rendered a couple more adventurous innings by the Los Angeles bullpen meaningless.
"We were fortunate tonight," Scioscia said.
He was right in this sense: Games like this have not gone in the Angels' favor as often as Scioscia would like this season. They entered Tuesday 22-6 after leading through seven innings; they lost six games in all of 2008 after leading through seven.
A bullpen ERA of 5.58 coming in was the worst in the AL, and 2008 mainstay Jose Arredondo was shipped out to Triple-A Salt Lake after Tuesday's game as the Angels continue to try to find the right combination in the bullpen.
And when Darren Oliver loaded the bases without allowing a hit in the eighth inning, that here-we-go-again feeling was inevitable. This time, though, the break went the Angels' way when slugger Carlos Pena lined sharply into the glove of first baseman Kendry Morales, who stepped on the bag to double off Evan Longoria.
A 4-2 lead through seven became 4-3 when reliever Jason Bulger's first pitch was hit into the right-field stands by Ben Zobrist leading off the eighth. After that, other than a leadoff walk by Fuentes in the ninth, the bullpen worked more like the well-honed unit Scioscia has become accustomed to over the past decade or so.
"We're going to continue to try to find a ... if we have to shuffle the cards a little bit down there to find some chemistry to close it out," Scioscia said. "They got the job done tonight. It wasn't totally clean, but they got it done and that's the bottom line."
It was an important step for the bullpen, because Weaver (6-2) was too drained to give the Angels more than six tough innings. He didn't allow a run through five, but a season-high four walks were an indication that his "stuff" wasn't what it has been most of this season.
"Obviously, too many walks," Weaver said. "I just didn't have any fastball command tonight. I was able to locate some pitches when I needed to, but for the most part the fastball command wasn't there. ... It was just one of those games where it didn't feel right and I had to battle."
Weaver wore down, Scioscia said, because of the humidity in the domed stadium.
"It was weird," Scioscia said. "I know we're inside, but it seems like the humidity keeps creeping in here if you're not used to it. He was tired. He had to work hard to get to that point in the game."
Weaver said he changed his jersey in the "third or fourth" inning because he was sweating so much.
"I was down in the bullpen warming up and they said the temperature's 72 degrees and I was like, 'No way it's 72 degrees in here,'" Weaver said. "I was sweating. It might have gotten to me a little bit. I'm obviously not used to pitching in that kind of weather."
Still, most teams would take two runs allowed in six innings from the starter. An indication of how well things have gone for Weaver: It was only the fifth time in 12 starts he allowed more than one earned run.
The Angels improved to 15-18 in games decided by two runs or less and 11-9 in one-run games.
"We have a lot of close games, all the time," Weaver said. "It's always been like that since I've been here. That's the reason why Frankie [Rodriguez] got 75 saves or whatever he got. It's always a battle. We've had a great bullpen ever since I've been here. Guys are turning it around down there."
The Angels took a 2-0 lead in the first, when third baseman Chone Figgins reached on Pena's error at first base to lead off the game. Figgins then took third on a single by Bobby Abreu, dodging the ball as it cleared the infield.
Figgins' aggressiveness forced a throw by right fielder Gabe Gross, allowing Abreu to take second. Both runners scored, saddling Rays starter James Shields with a couple of early unearned runs.
The lead was extended to 3-0 when Howard Kendrick tripled and scored on Figgins' sacrifice fly in the fifth. Kendrick's ball bounced off the railing in right field, and Scioscia argued briefly that it might have been a home run.
Crew chief Jeff Kellogg spent two minutes, 40 seconds reviewing the play on video before ruling it a triple. Scioscia wanted the umpires to make sure a fan's hand hadn't hit the ball before it bounced back into play.
"They said it hit the line, and it was close, and that was it," Scioscia said.
Carter Gaddis is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.