Erick Aybar keeps improving at the plate

One of the hottest hitters lately in the Angels' potent offense is Erick Aybar.

The 25-year-old shortstop began Sunday's game against the Texas Rangers having hit .396 over his prior 25 games, with 20 runs batted in and 13 multi-hit games.

And Aybar capped that hitting spree with a solo home run Saturday, his fifth of the season, that gave the Angels a 3-2 win over Texas and enabled Jered Weaver to earn his 12th victory of the season.

Although he was hitless in four at-bats in Sunday's game, Aybar said his stout hitting lately is a dividend from intensive practice, including time spent with hitting instructor Mickey Hatcher.

"I've been hitting every day, working in the [batting] cage with Hatch, looking at the videos of me and the pitchers" he's facing, Aybar said.

A switch-hitter, Aybar said he's also "seeing the ball better" lately and "I've been hitting to the opposite field" whenever possible.

His batting streak certainly caught the attention of Texas Manager Ron Washington.

"The surprise is how well Aybar is developing," Washington said. "He's stepped up his game."

But there's more work to be done, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said.

He said Aybar's recent prowess showed "he's reaching his potential, and now he's going to have to strive for consistency, not only game in, game out but year in, year out," Scioscia said.

"He can be a dynamic player, both in the batter's box and on the field and on the bases, and we're excited to keep watching him progress."


Weaver's work

As Weaver's catcher Saturday, Jeff Mathis had the best view of how the pitcher struck out a career-high 11 batters for the second consecutive game.

He became the first Angels pitcher to strike out at least 11 in consecutive games since Mark Langston did it 17 years ago, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

So how does Mathis explain Weaver's strikeout spree?

"I can't tell you all the secrets," Mathis said, but he explained the right-hander was more effectively mixing his pitches' location and speed.

"If you're throwing strikes on both sides of the plate like he's been doing in the last couple of outings, he's going to make things difficult" for batters, Mathis said. "He kept the hitters off-balance."

Weaver throws a fastball, slider and changeup, and Mathis said he called most of the pitches Saturday, when Weaver threw 100 pitches -- 69 for strikes -- before leaving after 7 1/3 innings.

Did Weaver wave off many of his suggestions?

"Not a whole bunch," Mathis said. "There's stuff we do before the game where we get on the same page, we know what we're going to do to each guy, so unless he's feeling something really different, it's already premeditated."

Scioscia said Weaver's "breaking ball is getting better" and that the pitcher is benefiting from using his changeup more sparingly.

"I think he got a little changeup heavy early in the year and now he's using everything -- fastball, breaking ball and changeup -- and it gives him a better margin of error," Scioscia said.


Short hops

Chone Figgins and Kendry Morales were rested Sunday, with Maicer Izturis starting at third base and Robb Quinlan at first base. . . . The Angels open a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays tonight at Angel Stadium.





When: 7.

Where: Angel Stadium.

On the air: TV: FS West. Radio 830, 980, 1330.

Probable pitchers: Sean O'Sullivan vs. Matt Garza; Tuesday, 7 p.m. -- Ervin Santana (4-6, 7.20) vs. David Price (5-4, 4.91); Wednesday, 12:30 p.m. -- TBA vs. Jeff Niemann (10-5, 3.73).

Update: The Angels open their three-game series with the Rays with the rookie O'Sullivan hoping to bounce back from his first big league loss in his last start, 6-1 to the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday. This will be his first appearance against Tampa Bay. Garza, who attended Fresno State, is 0-1 all-time against the Angels with a 5.25 earned-run average.

-- Jim Peltz

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