Weaver drops Mariners for milestone
Morales, Rivera provide big hits in young pitcher's 50th win
ANAHEIM -- Jered Weaver found himself in some rarefied air on Wednesday night.
Reaching the 15-win plateau, a career high, and the 50-win summit in his fourth Major League season, Weaver took a few deep breaths in the afterglow of a 6-3 decision over the Mariners that kept the Angels' American League West lead at 4 1/2 games over the surging Rangers.
"I felt good, felt strong in the last inning," Weaver said after his 6 1/3-inning effort. "The first couple innings I was kind of cruising, but they put up some good at-bats, fouled some pitches off."
He was taking no bows for 15 wins, or 50, for that matter, against only 24 career losses.
"We're not quite done yet," Weaver said. "We still have some season left. You have to keep battling."
Weaver's long right arm and the booming bats of Kendry Morales and Juan Rivera lifted manager Mike Scioscia's troupe to its fifth win in six games in front of 36,340 at Angel Stadium. The Mariners lost their fourth in a row, with Ichiro Suzuki going 1-for-5 to advance within four hits of 200.
Behind John Lackey, the Angels go for a sweep on Thursday night. Southpaw Ryan Rowland-Smith takes the ball for Seattle.
In Scioscia's perfect world, he holds five aces, all capable of sweeping up a pot of gold. With Scott Kazmir joining Weaver, Lackey, Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana, a shaky, injury-riddled rotation for five months is evolving into something with deep appeal.
"It's huge," Scioscia said. "I think our starters performing better has a positive effect on our bullpen. That's reassuring to us. Every night we're sending out a guy with the potential to give us a win. They're all taking the baton."
The offense put up four runs in the first against Ian Snell (4-2) and two in the eighth against Jason Vargas.
Morales unloaded a three-run double in the first, and Rivera crushed his 22nd homer, a two-run blast to center, in the eighth after Vladimir Guerrero's second hit, a double to left-center.
Weaver turned in 6 1/3 strong innings, featuring eight strikeouts. He yielded solo homers by Kenji Johjima and Jose Lopez.
In addition to wins, Weaver has established career bests in innings (186 2/3) and strikeouts (162).
After young Trevor Bell issued a walk and a double to open the ninth, Brian Fuentes, rebounding swiftly from a blown save the night before, rang up the final three outs to become the first 40-save man in the Majors.
It is a career high for Fuentes, who scaled the 30-save barrier three times in Colorado before moving to the Pacific to assume a role formerly held by Francisco Rodriguez.
Picking up in the eighth inning after Darren Oliver had notched the last two outs of the seventh, Kevin Jepsen continued his dominant work in a setup role.
The big right-hander from Nevada struck out two men, including Ken Griffey Jr.
Since the All-Star break, Jepsen has a 1.67 ERA across 27 innings, striking out 30 hitters while walking only four.
Jepsen showed Griffey his full arsenal: 97 mph four-seamers to get ahead followed by a pair of 90 mph cut fastballs and a sweeping curveball to finish the job.
"I faced him earlier in the season and he hit a line drive to left field off my curveball," Jepsen said. "I'm a different pitcher now."
Jepsen's cutter acts like a slider. Not many pitchers back up 97 mph gas with 90 mph sliders.
The Angels erupted quickly against Snell in the first. After Maicer Izturis walked with one out, singles by Bobby Abreu and Guerrero loaded the bases, Ichiro holding the runners with a decoy on Guerrero's drive to the right-field wall.
After Torii Hunter's walk forced home a run, Morales banged a three-run double to the left-center gap, giving him an AL-high 48 RBIs since the All-Star break and 98 for the season.
"I made some good pitches, but they're a very good hitting team," said Snell, whose sinker, down and away, was taken the other way by Morales.
With one out in the third, Johjima got the Mariners started when he powered his eighth homer of the season to left-center.
Weaver left runners in scoring position in the fourth and fifth innings before Lopez made it 4-2 with a blast to left, his 23rd, with one out in the sixth. After Adrian Beltre's double, Weaver struck out Bill Hall for the third time.
"Weaver mixed his off-speed stuff so well and located it and kept us off-balance," said Seattle first baseman Mike Carp. "It seemed like he'd throw a hanger, and then it would just disappear and never really make it to the plate. He was definitely on his A game."
A sensational play by third baseman Chone Figgins, robbing Beltre with his backhand on a shot headed for the left-field corner, saved Weaver at least one run in the fourth.
"Great play by Figgy to save a big inning," said Weaver, having got to 50 wins with fewer losses than any Angels pitcher in franchise history. "Guys tracked down some balls in the outfield."
It is a wise foreman who always thanks the crew.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.