Commentary

Angels' resilience starting to show

After losing Jered Weaver early, the Halos didn't give up and beat the Yankees

Updated: May 29, 2012, 3:34 AM ET
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com

ANAHEIM -- It's perfectly emblematic of the way this season has gone: Every time something good starts to happen, something bad dims the vibe.

Just as the Los Angeles Angels look ready, finally, to take off -- riding a season-long seven-game winning streak, the offense stirring awake -- they have to deal with the very real, very worrisome possibility that Jered Weaver is headed for the disabled list.

[+] EnlargeJered Weaver
Jeff Gross/Getty ImageThe Angels didn't let seeing their ace walk off the mound in the first inning deter them from beating the Yankees.

On the other hand, this is nothing like the way their season has gone.

Just as the Angels appeared to be sinking under the weight of expectations, floundering for six miserable weeks, you could see little shoots of hope springing up in the last couple of weeks. There were better at-bats, Albert Pujols was no longer disguising himself as the worst hitter in the league and a touched-up bullpen was ramping up its confidence by the game.

But in Monday night's 9-8 win over the New York Yankees -- in which Mark Trumbo gave some worried fans a good-night pat on the head with a walk-off home run -- the Angels showed some traits that have been missing all year. For one thing, they fought.

After Weaver left the game 12 pitches into it with severe lower-back pain, the Angels brushed off a 3-0 deficit with four of their own in the first. A couple of weeks ago, being down by three would have felt like they were struggling to get to base camp on Everest.

As the game dragged along -- emphasis on dragged -- the Angels answered every time the Yankees pushed them. The bullpen bent and nearly broke, but didn't quite. In the clutch situations, some key run producers came through.

So, while Tuesday will be an anxious one for the Angels front office and manager Mike Scioscia as they await MRI and X-ray results on Weaver's back, the mood in the clubhouse will be as upbeat as it has been since Opening Night.

Maybe the news from Weaver's doctor visit will change all that, but then again, maybe it won't. Weaver advised the reporters gathered at his locker after the game that they shouldn't focus their stories on the injury.

"It should be about how everybody picked me up and picked each other up today," Weaver said.

The Angels are .500 for the first time since game No. 4. It's not exactly where everyone expected them to be, but it's also far from buried with June creeping up on them. And, for the first time since an encouraging spring training bled into a brutal April, these guys are playing like -- if not a juggernaut -- at least a team.

Every question isn't about Pujols' struggles. Every one of Scioscia's in-game decisions isn't picked apart with surgical tools.

"I'm super proud of the way our guys came and battled," Trumbo said.

None of which should obscure the fact that Weaver would be a colossal loss. He's one of the best pitchers in baseball, probably Top 5. He has been as durable as he has been good -- just one stint on the disabled list since he came up in 2006 -- and he's the heart and soul of a very good pitching staff. His previous pitch at Angel Stadium before his opening offer to Derek Jeter Monday had capped his May 2 no-hitter against the Minnesota Twins.

Like that, 11 pitches later, he's walking off the field, yelling and clutching his lower back.

He said it felt like someone stabbed him.

"It's pretty painful. I can't really bend over too much," Weaver said. "The muscle relaxer's helping a little bit, but like I said I've never had something like that happen before and it's pretty painful."

If Weaver goes on the DL, the Angels will pick through some less-than-thrilling choices at Triple-A. Their best pitching prospect, Garrett Richards, had a nice spring and started strong, but has been getting hit around the PCL in May. Soft-tossing lefty Brad Mills might get the call, too.

"We have some arms down there that we'll consider," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, sounding every bit as enthusiastic as you might think.

They might even send some scouts to take a long look at Roy Oswalt.

But none of the pitchers they can rush into a uniform will give them the rare combination of fire and consistency Weaver brought. So, for now, they're left to count on each other and -- as it stands right now -- there are worse problems to have.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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