Jered Weaver's no-hitter is familiar
The SoCal native who stayed in town for less money pitches the game of his life
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- As you're watching the final outs of a no-hitter, you can't help but feel the nervous tension building for the guy standing on the mound, all eyes on him.
Now, imagine what it must feel like for his parents, watching their child do something so difficult in front of so many people. There Dave and Gail Weaver of Simi Valley were Wednesday night, at their customary post, 20 rows behind home plate in Section 119, sitting next to their son's wife, Kristin.
After Jamey Carroll flew out to the warning track in left field leading off the ninth inning, Jered Weaver stood two outs from history, and Dave Weaver could barely contain it. The fans around him were all on their feet, so Gail and Kristin had to duck between heads to see the ending. Luckily, Dave is nearly as tall as his 6-foot-6 son.
"I get so nervous sometimes, I have to go stick my head in a toilet or something," Dave Weaver said. "But after 8 1/3 innings, I figured he had a chance."
Jered Weaver struck out Denard Span, and Torii Hunter tracked down Alexi Casilla's drive at the warning track on Weaver's 121st pitch, clinching the first solo no-hitter at Angel Stadium since 1975, seven years before Weaver was born. His older brother, Jeff, once had a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning before a Cleveland Indians batter hit a fly ball misplayed by the right fielder but ruled a base hit. Jeff watched Wednesday's game on TV.
"It was unbelievably neat to get it in front of friends and family," Jered Weaver said.
This was kind of the point.
Less than nine months ago, Weaver chose loyalty over greater riches, family and friends over greater fame, and elected to sign what most people view as a below-market, $85 million deal to stay in Anaheim for five more seasons. Wednesday night was the payoff -- or at least the first dividend. Weaver and the Los Angeles Angels are hoping a World Series title will follow.
"To have it happen at home, where I decided to stay, and have these fans cheer me on ... to go out there in the ninth was pretty electric," Weaver said.
The Angels' ace wouldn't seem to be the likeliest guy to throw a no-hitter, but those who know him figured it was only a matter of time. Most nights, his fastball barely brushes 90 mph, but he has such extraordinary command of all four pitches, it hardly matters. His control is so pinpoint, his ability to change speeds so baffling, his delivery so weird, hitters seem as flummoxed chasing his stuff as they do trying to time a pitch whizzing in at 98 mph.
And then there's his competitiveness, which bubbled over in Detroit last season when he got so angry at the Tigers' showboating, he intentionally threw at a batter, but which typically runs at a simmering boil.
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Dan Haren was charting pitches in the Angels' clubhouse, as he customarily does on nights Weaver pitches. He could see Weaver was in command early, frustrating Twins hitters with his off-speed stuff. Haren said that, by the fifth or sixth inning, he "felt it."
"I kind of know how he works. Once he got into the sixth, I knew he was going to throw quite a few sliders and changeups, and that was probably the best I've seen those two pitches working," Haren said. "He's one of my best friends on the team. It was so fun to watch."
The Angels have hitched their wagon to Albert Pujols for the next 10 seasons, but until Pujols is able to shake from his early funk, Weaver and his rotation mates represent this team's greatest hope for a title. He is 4-0 with a 1.61 ERA a month into what has been the most disappointing start in Angels history, based strictly on expectations versus reality.
If looks aren't deceiving, Weaver might have just steered this season back on the rails. The fact that it came against a bad opponent with one of its best hitters, Justin Morneau, out of the lineup is relevant but hardly paramount. The Angels finally had a little magic Wednesday night, everybody in the clubhouse all smiles.
For the first time this season, the Angels have won three in a row. It might be modest, but it's the first hint of momentum we've seen.
Instead of answering questions about Pujols' slump, they were able to soak in a bit of baseball lore.
"Once everything starts clicking, like today, it's going to be fun," Hunter said with a smile and a wink.
Weaver finally put the fun back into 2012 for the Angels, and that can't hurt their chances.