Weaver, Angels claim showdown vs. Lee
Righty fans seven in seven innings; Halos trim deficit to eight
ANAHEIM -- If there was any doubt whether Jered Weaver is an ace, it was put to rest Sunday against the Rangers.
Weaver pitched brilliantly in one of his biggest outings of the season -- allowing just one unearned run on four hits over seven innings -- to outduel Cliff Lee for a 4-1 win for the Angels, who took the crucial three-game series at Angel Stadium and moved eight games behind the first-place Rangers in the American League West.
"It's huge," said Weaver, who improved to 10-7 with a 3.04 ERA. "Every game against those guys is important and every game here on out for us is important. It's the first time since I've been here we've been in this type of deficit, but I know we have a lot of guys in this clubhouse who know what it takes to win an AL West Division championship."
The road to overtaking the Rangers won't be an easy one, but at least the Angels have some momentum after having lost seven of eight entering the three-game set, which the Angels took two games to one.
A sweep would've been preferred, but Angels center fielder Torii Hunter, who went 3-for-4 to snap an 0-for-15 skid, said the club will happily take winning the series.
"We're going to have to settle with it," Hunter said. "That's all you want to do -- win series. It's tough to sweep a Major League ballclub, especially like the one they have over there. So for us to win two of three and gain a game is good."
The Angels couldn't have done it without Weaver, who was on his game, striking out seven Rangers to add to his Major League-leading total of 162 punchouts.
He also had the benefit of pitching with the lead, as the Angels struck early against Lee, scoring two runs in the first inning on an RBI single from Alberto Callaspo and an RBI fielder's choice by Mike Napoli, who was later thrown out at home trying to score on a double by Howard Kendrick.
The lead grew to 3-0 in the fourth inning after an RBI groundout by Juan Rivera to score Hunter, who led off with a single.
"It started with what Jered Weaver did," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We were fortunate to get some early runs, which helped him a little bit to have some margin for error out there. It was just a great effort by Jered."
The Rangers scored their lone run against Weaver in the sixth inning on a double from former Angel Vladimir Guerrero. But the Rangers certainly had their chances in the third inning, when they loaded the bases with one out, but Weaver got David Murphy to pop out to shallow right field and Guerrero to fly out to Hunter to end the threat.
"I had to make some pitches," Weaver said. "You don't want to face that lineup in that situation, but there were a couple guys I had success with in the past, so I was able to get Murphy to pop up and then end the inning there."
Weaver simply outdueled Lee, who allowed the Angels' final run in the eighth inning on a sacrifice fly by Kendrick to score Callaspo, who drew a rare walk from Lee, as he hadn't allowed an unintentional walk as a Ranger, breaking a streak of 159 batters without giving up a free pass. In all, Lee gave up four runs on nine hits over eight innings for his AL-leading seventh complete game of the season.
"Cliff Lee is a guy that pounds the strike zone and he's always ready to go on the mound," Hunter said. "His pace of the game is like two hours and 20 minutes all the time and he's always going the distance. So he's pretty good."
While it was a big win for Weaver and the Angels, there are still seven more meetings between the clubs this season, with the next series starting Sept. 20 in Anaheim.
But both managers preferred not to focus on those upcoming matchups because there's still plenty of baseball to be played before then.
"I'm not thinking that far ahead," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "All I'm thinking about is Tuesday for Seattle. No telling what might happen by the time we get to those games. We get to those games and we still got an eight-game lead, I'll tell you then."
Scioscia, meanwhile, had a similar mentality and said his club is just taking it one game at a time without reflecting on any stretches or looking forward to any either.
"It's just one game," Scioscia said. "We won this afternoon. We're not looking back at any stretches or any series. It's a win and we did some things on the field that were important to us like Jered pitching and the bullpen doing its job. But really it's about carrying momentum forward."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.