Saturday, July 7, 2012
Jered Weaver truly masters his domain
By Mark Saxon
In the past two seasons, Jered Weaver has pitched nearly 200 innings at Angel Stadium and lost just twice.
ANAHEIM -- In the fourth inning of Saturday's game, Baltimore's powerful young catcher, Matt Wieters, swung at a Jered Weaver curveball and sent it soaring toward those rock things out in center field.
Mike Trout retreated.
Then, he retreated a little bit more.
He poked out his right hand to get a sense for the wall, then cradled the ball a couple of feet in front of the 400-foot sign.
At roughly 90 percent of the stadiums in the major leagues, in places where temperatures are spiking as we creep into mid-July, that ball clears the fence. Everything might have been different had it gone over. Baltimore would have had a quick 2-0 lead and it might have had some confidence it could get to one of the best pitchers in the game, particularly with its ace, Jason Hammel, cruising early.
But at Angel Stadium, where the temperature by then was in the mid-60s, it was just one of the 24 outs Weaver piled up in another dominant performance in a 3-0 Angels win.
If you're an American League hitter, there's never a good time or place to face Weaver, but when he's wearing a white jersey, with his parents seated 20 rows behind home plate, you're in a truly tough spot. In the past two seasons, Weaver has pitched nearly 200 innings at Angel Stadium and lost just twice. This year, he is 6-0 with a 0.58 ERA, including a no-hitter. Unless your pitcher is prepared to throw a shutout, you're almost defeated before you hit the dugout's top step. And the Angels feed on that.
It's a successful marriage, and the team and Weaver renewed vows when he agreed to a five-year, $85 million contract extension last August. Weaver, an extreme flyball pitcher with pinpoint command, knows every nook and cranny of this place by now.
"Obviously, it's a pitcher's park, there's no question about that, and it's easier to let some pitches go instead of trying to be too fine here," Weaver said. "It's a great place to pitch and that's one of the main reasons why I stayed."
None of which should obscure the fact that Weaver would be one of the best pitchers in the game whether he was pitching at Angel Stadium, Camden Yards or the elementary school near your house. He did just wrap up a first half in which he went 10-1 with a 1.96 ERA, after all. He just might be in line for a second straight starting assignment for the American League All-Stars.
And the last pitcher to put up back-to-back first halves in which he won 10 or more games with a sub-2.00 ERA did it roughly 30 miles south of where Weaver grew up in Simi Valley: Sandy Koufax. So, yeah, it's not as if this Angel Stadium dominance is an anomaly. It just takes Weaver's dominance to a new dimension.
"I think you do pitch to your conditions, and ballparks are part of that," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "But I don't think he has ever drastically changed his game or what he does."