Angels right-hander Jered Weaver struck out Baltimore Orioles slugger Chris Davis in the second inning Friday night with a 64-mph curveball that floated so softly toward the plate it appeared Davis could have swung not once but twice at the pitch.
Speed may kill in a game often dominated by high-octane throwers, but as Weaver showed in a 3-1 victory in Camden Yards, a well-placed repertoire of off-speed and breaking pitches can at least maim a lineup.
Weaver allowed one run and three hits in 7 1/3 innings, striking out three and walking one to win his second straight game and fuel a belief that he's recovered from a brutal six-game start in which he went 0-4 with a 6.29 earned-run average.
"Deception is so much a part of his game," Davis said of the 6-foot-7 Weaver. "He steps to the third-base side of the mound and then throws across his body. He changes speeds, changes your eye level. The crazy thing about the curveball is he throws it 64 mph, and I feel like he can pretty much put it wherever he wants."
Weaver was not as dominant Friday as he was in his previous start May 8, when he blanked Houston for his seventh career shutout, and the velocity of his fastball, which spiked to 87-88 mph against the Astros, was back to the 84-86 range.
But he still extended his consecutive scoreless-innings streak to 16 before a J.J. Hardy solo homer in the eighth, and the only other Baltimore runner to reach second base came on Weaver's own fielding miscue, when Hardy's fifth-inning squibber squirted out of his glove and Weaver threw past first for a two-base error.
Weaver, who improved to 2-4 with a 4.44 ERA, got Rey Navarro to fly to center and struck out Caleb Joseph with a 74-mph changeup to end the fifth. Of his 83 pitches, 54 were strikes.
"I don't know if his stuff was as crisp as it was last time, but his command was definitely there," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He had enough fastball, and he used all his pitches. He did a great job against a team that is going to let you know if you're missing spots."
The Angels extended their win streak to four and pushed their record (18-17) over .500 for the first time since they were 2-1 in early April.
"It was good for the most part," Weaver said. "I got away with a couple pitches they popped up. I mixed in the off-speed, and my fastball command was pretty good. The defense played well behind me, and Carlos called a great game."
That would be Carlos Perez, the 24-year-old rookie catcher who has started seven of nine games since May 5, when he hit a walk-off homer in his major league debut and has made "a quick study of a lot of things," Scioscia said. Perez also caught Weaver's shutout against the Astros.
"He's been spot-on," Weaver said. "It took us a little while to get on the same page in that last start, but now, when I shake off a sign, he's pretty good about throwing down the right fingers the next time. It's been fun working with him. He's doing a great job back there."
It's clear that Perez, who hit a second-inning sacrifice fly Friday night and is batting .280 with five runs batted in, has supplanted the struggling Chris Iannetta (.101) as the starter, even though Scioscia hasn't come right out and said it.
Iannetta, a nine-year veteran who has been the team's primary catcher since 2012, has taken his demotion in stride. There was no hint of bitterness in his voice as he spoke about it Friday. He is not wallowing in self-pity.
"I've been in Carlos' shoes before, and I'm extremely happy for him," Iannetta, 32, said. "I know what it's like to get to the big leagues for the first time, to get an opportunity to play and to be successful. There's no greater feeling. I'm really excited for him. It's been fun to watch. I hope he keeps it up."