After a disappointing finish to the Detroit series, the Angels got off to a good start in Tampa Bay. That was no surprise, as their 2009 ace, Jered Weaver, was on the mound to start the series. It was his third straight win, and after going six innings and allowing two earned runs, it left his season ERA at 2.31, good enough for third in the American League. He kept the Rays off balance most of the night, working his change up to left handers with regularity, changing speeds and arm angles, and working out of a few jams. He struggled a bit with his command, walking four, but he made big pitches when he needed to. Tonight was an opportunity for Weaver to show that he's evolving from a throwier to a pitcher. He didn't have his best stuff, but he made it work.
The Angels got him some help early. Chone Figgins reached on an error to lead off the game. Bobby Abreu singled him to third, and two batters later, Vlad Guerrero delivered an RBI single for the first run of the game. Juan Rivera chased Abreu home on an RBI ground out. In the fifth inning, Howie Kendrick missed a home run by a matter of inches, but ended up with a triple. The umpires reviewed the play, but made the right call. Chone Figgins drove him in with a sac fly in the next at bat.
Tampa Bay finally got to Weaver in the sixth. After Evan Longoria walked, Carlos Pena doubled to put runners on second and third with no one out. An RBI ground out and a sac fly later, the Rays were within one run. The Angels added to the lead in the seventh, although they missed an opportunity to break the game open. Howie Kendrick led off the inning with a single, but was thrown out trying to go first to third on Chone Figgins' single. Bobby Abreu followed with an RBI double that would have scored Kendrick as well as Figgins.
Jason Bulger entered the game in the eighth inning and gave up a lead off homer to Ben Zobrist, but retired the next three hitters, two via the strike out. Brian Fuentes came on in the ninth inning, and promptly walked Joe Dillon. He almost did the same to BJ Upton, but got some help from home plate umpire Mark Wegner before getting Upton to fly to center. Fuentes induced a double play ball to second from Carl Crawford to end the game.
Thoughts on the game:
- Jered Weaver shows no signs of slowing down. He's very fun to watch, and he's really showing that he knows how to set up hitters and put them away with an array of pitches.
- Howie Kendrick is doing just enough to stay in the lineup. After five straight games without a hit, he has hits in five of his last six, including two tonight. He could be righting the ship before breaking out, or he could be bailing just enough water to stay afloat before sinking. Still, the signs for now are positive.
- Vlad is hitting .314 in his last eight games, but still not hitting for power. Hopefully the increased contact is a precusor to more power, but it's clear the Angels need to find power somewhere. They're scoring far too few runs for a team whose top three in the lineup are all getting on base at a clip better than .386, and can all run. They have table setters. They're just having a hard time getting those guys across the plate.