Against Jered Weaver, the Oakland Athletics had no choice but to swing the bat. They couldn’t take a lot of pitches and fall behind in the count.
He just wasn’t missing.
Weaver scattered seven hits, but won for the sixth straight start this season, and the Angels snapped a four-game losing streak with a 5-0 win over Gio Gonzalez and the Athletics on Monday night.
”Coming into the game, you know that Oakland’s hitters are kind of patient, for the most part,” Weaver said. ”But they came in and took some early hacks – which was kind of surprising. So I had to throw some off-speed stuff early. What you want to do is get ahead with first-pitch strikes. My location is a lot better and I’m feeling real good out there mechanically.”
Weaver, last year’s major league strikeout leader, threw first-pitch strikes to each of his first 15 batters and finished with 10 Ks. He walked one and allowed only one runner as far as third base, lowering his ERA to a major league-best 0.99 and overtaking Josh Johnson’s 1.06 mark with Florida.
Weaver threw 114 pitches while sending Oakland to its third shutout loss in five games. It was his third shutout and fourth complete game in 150 career starts.
The Angels were coming off a four-game sweep by Boston in which they were beaten 5-0 and 7-0 in the last two games.
”Obviously, we didn’t do what we wanted to do against Boston, but our boys came to play tonight and were able to get me a couple of runs early off a great pitcher,” Weaver said. ”It wasn’t just me. The guys played great defense behind me.”
The right-hander, who had won only one of his previous 11 starts against the A’s, beat Texas 4-1 with a six-hitter last Wednesday. He didn’t get his sixth victory last season until June 13, and it took him 14 starts to do it.
”He did a good job of keeping us off-balance,” Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki said. ”We got our hits, but when he needed to make a pitch, he made a pitch. And he mixes it up. When you’re sitting on an off-speed pitch, he throws a fastball. He throws everything, and he throws it for strikes.”
Weaver got his 70th career victory, reaching that total with a better winning percentage (.642) than anyone in the franchise’s 51-year history. The previous best was .588, by Nolan Ryan and Frank Tanana.
Weaver began his big league career in 2006 by going 9-0 in his first 12 starts after he was promoted from the minors two months into the season. He is the first pitcher in the majors with six victories in his team’s first 23 games since Randy Johnson did it with the 2002 Arizona Diamondbacks.
”Obviously, the run support really wasn’t there too much last year, but I still wanted to compete and give us a chance to win,” Weaver said. ”But those guys have been helping me out a lot so far, and that’s definitely contributed to my success so far. Anytime you get five runs midway through the game, it takes a lot of pressure off your shoulders and you can go out there and attack the hitters.”
Gonzalez (2-2) was charged with five runs – four earned – and eight hits in five innings while striking out five. It was only the second time in the left-hander’s last 20 starts that he didn’t pitch at least six innings. The A’s have totaled four runs in his last four outings, including a 1-0 win at Minnesota.
”Our whole pitching staff as a whole, they don’t worry about who they’re going up against,” Suzuki said. ”Maybe it comes into play, but when they go out there, their mindset is to keep the team in the ballgame and give us a chance to win. Gio got his ground balls, but they hit some balls hard and strung some hits together. Gio’s tough to hit against, so when a team scores runs off him, it’s a credit to them.”
The Angels took the lead in the second inning on a two-run single by Howie Kendrick that ended their string of 24 consecutive scoreless innings against opposing starters.
”Gio’s been a guy who doesn’t really give up a lot of runs, like Weaver,” Kendrick said. ”He was trying to attack the zone tonight and we just came out aggressive as a team. The last series against Boston we weren’t as aggressive as we could be, but tonight we were against a good pitcher and it worked out for us.”
The Angels were shut out in three straight contests only once in franchise history. That was in June 1978, when Jon Matlack and Doc Medich of the Texas Rangers and Rich Gale of the Kansas City Royals all pitched complete games against them.
Notes: Oakland LF Josh Willingham left the game in the sixth because of tightness in the left side of his upper back. … Oakland LHP Brian Fuentes returned to Anaheim for the first time since the Angels traded their former closer to Minnesota last August. The four-time All-Star, who led the majors with a career-best 48 saves for the Halos in 2009, has six saves in seven chances with Oakland while filling in for injured closer Andrew Bailey.