Angels back on track at home against Texas
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Maybe home is where the Angels needed to be all along.
The road was miserable. They lost games, lost ground in the American League West, perhaps even lost a bit of confidence in themselves.
Friday night at Angel Stadium, all seemed well again. The pitching was there; so was the power. They looked again like the team that seemed poised to make a run at the Texas Rangers, who have led the division since the fourth day of the season.
Jered Weaver, unbeatable at home, pitched seven bumpy but effective innings. Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout hit home runs. Albert Pujols went 3 for 4. The bullpen closed out the game.
The 6-1 victory over the Rangers was just the kind of thing to wash away a 2-5 road trip through New York and Detroit. The Angels closed ground on first place for the first time since July 5, and no matter what anyone says, this three-game series holds a measure of importance.
"Obviously it's exciting," Weaver said. "The fans were into it, and you're going up against your division rival. You want to pick up some games against them, and there's no better way to do it."
Weaver is now 12-1 overall and 7-0 at home with a 0.68 ERA. He needed 116 pitches to get through seven innings, but he made pitches when he needed them and was boosted by his defense and offense.
Case in point: In the third inning, he surrendered a leadoff double to Mike Napoli and a double to Craig Gentry, putting runners at second and third with no out. But he induced Ian Kinsler to foul out to first baseman Albert Pujols, then, after walking Elvis Andrus to load the bases, escaped by getting Josh Hamilton to hit into a double play.
Hamilton is slumping (4 for 31 in his previous nine games), but he remains one of the game's most dangerous hitters -- and a significant challenge for Weaver in that spot.
"With Hamilton, you have to be careful," manager Mike Scioscia said. "With the bases loaded, it can be a game-changer with one pitch. He hit it hard, but it was right where (second baseman Howie Kendrick) was and we turned a nice double play."
Weaver, who served up a first-inning run to Andrus, wobbled again in the fifth when Napoli and Gentry got one-out singles. This time, Kinslier flied out to left and Andrus grounded out to second.
"They hit some balls hard, but luckily they were at some people," Weaver said. "You've got to have some things go your way against a lineup like that, and it happened tonight."
Weaver threw 116 pitches, but he was able to throw a 1-2-3 seventh and turned the game over to Kevin Jepsen and Jason Isringhausen, who each threw one scoreless inning.
The last time Weaver faced the Rangers, he was chased after giving up eight runs in 3 1/3 innings. Rangers fans in Arlington, Texas, serenaded him off the mound to the Ray Charles song, "Hit the Road, Jack." Not this time.
But it wasn't easy, either.
"He had to work for every out," Scioscia said of Weaver. "He threw a lot of pitches early in the game and then got to a point where he found his fastball command and was pitch efficient his last couple of innings. Going into the fourth, with his pitch count and how hard he was working, we were hoping to get him through six and he ended up getting through seven."
The Angels, held to just three runs and six hits in back-to-back losses to the Tigers, provided ample support with four runs in the fourth and home runs from Trumbo in the sixth and Trout in the seventh. Isn't this what Angels fans have gotten used to seeing?
"We're only two pieces of the puzzle," said Trumbo, whose homer was his 27th, putting him one behind Hamilton and the Chicago White Sox' Adam Dunn for the league lead. Then, speaking of Trout, he added, "He's more than holding his own."
Trout scored twice and now has scored at least one run in 12 consecutive games, one shy of the franchise record set by Jim Edmonds in 1995. But he's also hit 15 home runs in 72 games.
The power is a bit unexpected, but by now the Angels aren't surprised by anything the rookie does.
"He has that in his game," Scioscia said. "He showed glimpses of it last year. The variety of pitches he's been able to drive and off some good pitchers is not something you're going to expect from a kid his age with his experience. I won't say it surprises because he has the potential."