Angels 8, White Sox 0
The money didn't change Jered Weaver. A day after he signed a lucrative new contract with the Los Angeles Angels, he was his inimitable, near-unhittable self on the mound.
And the way his teammates are playing over the past week, it's looking like everybody in Anaheim wants to get rich.
Weaver pitched seven innings of four-hit ball in his first start since signing an $85 million contract extension, and Erick Aybar drove in three runs in the Angels' sixth straight victory, 8-0 over the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night.
Torii Hunter homered for the Angels, and Jeff Mathis had a two-run double during a three-run second inning in a dominant finale to their nine-game homestand. Los Angeles' second straight series sweep and Texas' 13-2 loss to Boston trimmed the Angels' deficit in the AL West to just 2 1/2 games before they head into a weekend series at Rangers Ballpark on Friday.
''I love the way we're playing ball right now,'' Hunter said. ''We've got some guys with some heart. We're going in to play the first-place team, and we're 2 1/2 games back. We're riding that wave.''
Los Angeles scored four runs in the seventh, prompting manager Mike Scioscia to call an early night for Weaver (15-6), who received one total run of support in his previous three starts combined. Weaver didn't need that much help while emphatically ending a four-start winless streak, striking out eight and allowing just one runner to reach third base.
''I was a little amped up going out there, but I got it together,'' Weaver said. ''Obviously, Sosh took me out a little early, and me being me, I wasn't too happy about it, but it was the right thing to do. I won't hold it over him.''
A day earlier, Los Angeles announced Weaver had agreed to a five-year deal through 2016, passing up unrestricted free agency to stay in Orange County. Although the Angels scored just eight runs in Weaver's last six starts, the AL All-Star game starter's 15 victories already are one short of his career high in 2009.
The Angels have Thursday off before heading to Arlington, where they could conceivably take over the division lead with a three-game sweep. It's an improbable development after the Rangers took three of four at Angel Stadium last week, only missing a sweep on Mark Trumbo's two-run homer on the last pitch of the final game.
Texas has lost four of six since leaving Anaheim, while Los Angeles has been perfect.
''The attitude is the same,'' Scioscia said. ''We're just playing better. We started with a rough homestand. We weren't playing the way we needed, and you saw the standings go the other way. ... We reversed it, and now we're right back where we need to be, and that's in the hunt.''
Zach Stewart (1-3) allowed seven hits and seven runs while pitching into the seventh inning for Chicago, which missed a chance to move into second place in the AL Central for the second straight day. Division-leading Detroit and Cleveland both lost earlier Wednesday.
''They can win or lose all they want, but if we don't win, it doesn't really matter,'' White Sox outfielder Juan Pierre said. ''I know some guys scoreboard-watch, but if we don't take care of our business, we'll be making fishing plans here soon. We've just got to keep battling and hope we turn things around.''
Alejandro De Aza's third-inning double was the only extra-base hit for the White Sox, who haven't been above third place since April. They also missed a chance Tuesday to move above .500 for just the second time in four months.
Until the game got away in the seventh inning, Stewart had made a solid return to the White Sox's rotation after a stint in the bullpen. He made two starts immediately after arriving in a trade with Toronto on July 27, returning to the rotation after an injury to Philip Humber.
''There were so many big pitches where I just left the ball up and missed my spot,'' Stewart said. ''I put it in a place where (Mathis) could do something with it, and he did.''
After Aybar drove home Trumbo for the Angels' first run in the second inning, Mathis pounded a double into the left-center gap, scoring Vernon Wells and Aybar. Mathis entered the game batting .176, but his rapport with Weaver makes him valuable to the Angels.
Hunter hit a two-out shot well beyond the left-field wall in the third inning, his 18th homer of the season. The steady slugger is closing in on his sixth straight 20-homer season.
Aybar laced a two-run double down the first-base line in the seventh, followed by back-to-back RBI doubles by Alberto Callaspo and Bobby Abreu against reliever Josh Kinney.
NOTES: More bad news for Texas: Scioscia is contemplating using Ervin Santana and Weaver on short rest after 13-game winner Dan Haren starts the opener at Rangers Ballpark. Los Angeles started rookies Garrett Richards and Tyler Chatwood in the first two games of last week's series with the Rangers, who beat both soundly. ... Jake Peavy will start for the White Sox on Friday when they open a series in Seattle against Charlie Furbush and the Mariners. ... Abreu's 547th career double tied him with Manny Ramirez for 25th on baseball's career list.