The way things are going for the Los Angeles Angels, it’s difficult for Jered Weaver to focus on the fact that he is one victory away from his first 20-win season in the majors.
Then again, the only reason the Angels still have a shot at a postseason berth is because their ace keeps winning. Weaver kept them within striking distance in the AL wild-card chase, posting his league-leading 19th victory on Sunday with a 4-1 decision over the struggling Chicago White Sox.
Albert Pujols reached the 100-RBI mark for the 11th time in 12 big league seasons with a two-run double as the Angels remained 2 1/2 games behind Oakland for the second wild-card spot. Kendrys Morales hit a two-run homer that helped the Angels complete a three-game sweep.
”Obviously there’s a little bit of scoreboard watching going on now as we dwindle now here,” Weaver said. ”But we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do and not worry about what other teams are doing. It’s obviously a great sweep, and hopefully we can keep it rolling against Seattle.”
The White Sox lost their fifth in a row and led Detroit by a half-game in the AL Central. The Tigers lost the opener of their day-night doubleheader against Minnesota.
Weaver (19-4) threw 113 pitches in 6 1-3 innings, allowing a run and five hits with four strikeouts and dropping his ERA to 2.74. He finished his home slate 11-2, including a no-hitter against Minnesota on May 2.
The three-time All-Star right-hander established a career high for wins, eclipsing his total from last season.
”To get one more than last year is great, and now I’ve got a couple more starts to try and get 20,” Weaver said. ”It wasn’t a personal goal of mine by any means, but it’s nice to get a new career high. Any win right now is important, personal accolades aside. That’s what we’ve got to do – win ballgames, no matter what it takes.”
The victory didn’t come easily for Weaver, who battled through 94-degree heat during a 33-pitch first inning. He escaped a bases-loaded jam, striking out Alex Rios at the end of an 11-pitch at-bat and retiring A.J. Pierzynski on a grounder.
”It felt like it was a million degrees out there,” Weaver said. ”Having to throw upwards of 30 pitches in the first is obviously not what you want to do, but they made me work. That’s what their game plan was, and they did a good job of it. It was a little erratic and it could have been a lot worse, so it was good to come out of that first one unscathed and be able to extend it into the seventh.”
White Sox manager Robin Ventura bemoaned his team’s failure again to come through in the clutch. They were 1 for 17 with runners in scoring position during the series.
”We had Weaver in trouble early and were in a really good position, but he showed again why he’s a good pitcher and we just couldn’t cash in,” Ventura said. ”I’m sure he’s been in situations like that before.”
Kevin Jepsen threw 1 2-3 scoreless innings in relief of Weaver. Garrett Richards, Scott Downs and Ernesto Frieri each retired a batter in the ninth because of lefty-righty matchups.
”The reason we did that today was because a lot of our bullpen guys had been pitching a lot,” manager Mike Scioscia said. ”Garrett had a little bit in him, Downs had a little bit in him and Ernie has a little bit in him. So when you added it up, you hope you’ll get a full inning.”
Gavin Floyd (10-11) gave up four runs and seven hits in six innings while striking out eight.
Chicago’s only run came in the seventh, when Pierzynski doubled, advanced on Weaver’s wild pitch and scored on Dayan Viciedo’s sacrifice fly.
Floyd matched zeros with Weaver until the sixth, when the Angels erupted for four runs. Mike Trout walked with one out, Torii Hunter sent him to third with a hit-and-run single to left field, Pujols lined the next pitch to left field to score both runners and Morales followed with his 22nd homer.
”You walk the first guy – and not a good guy to walk because it puts a lot of pressure on you with Trout getting on base,” Floyd said. ”Torii got the base hit, and it happened pretty quick. It wasn’t one of those drawn-out innings.”
NOTES: Weaver is 101-51 with a 3.23 ERA through his first 205 major league starts. Brother Jeff was 76-84 record with a 3.09 ERA in his first 205 big league starts with the Tigers, Yankees and Dodgers. … The Angels have won only five games all season in which they scored fewer than three runs, and five different pitchers started those games. Oddly enough, Weaver wasn’t one of them. … The Angels have swept seven series of three or more games this season, and five of them have come since Aug. 20, including a three-game set against Detroit on their previous homestand. … Paul Konerko is 2 for 22 lifetime against Weaver after going 1 for 2 with a walk. … Trout has scored a major league-high 122 runs, two shy of the Angels’ franchise record set by Vladimir Guerrero in 2004.