The man continues to trudge along, approaching 2,000 career innings, dealing with degenerative changes in his vertebrae, and trying to get by with far less velocity than most of his counterparts. So, no, Jered Weaver is not feeling 100%.
“But when you’re 33 years old and have a lot of innings, you don’t feel 100% all the time,” the Angels right-hander said after his start Friday night. “I’m still working to get back to feeling better than 55%.”
Fractioned, bisected and divided, Weaver still held Pittsburgh to two runs over six innings. He did not dominate, yielding back-to-back home runs in the second inning on mislocated fastballs. He did not blow anyone away, his fastball ceasing its climb up the radar gun at 86 mph.
But he did pitch effectively enough for the Angels to win his start for the fifth time in 11 tries. They raced past the Pirates, 9-2, at PNC Park.
The Angels reached base 25 times. Every starter except Weaver reached at least twice, and Mike Trout reached four times, raising his American League-leading on-base percentage to .424.
The run began before the Pirates batted. Third baseman and leadoff hitter Yunel Escobar singled to right on the fourth pitch he saw, as he returned to the lineup after sitting out three games because of a bruised wrist. He scored shortly thereafter when Trout lined a Francisco Liriano fastball up the middle.
After Albert Pujols walked to fill the bases, Johnny Giavotella lined another single to center to score two more runs. The Angels led, 3-0, without making an out. They didn’t score again that inning, but converted subsequent chances. Shane Robinson led off the second inning with a single and took second when Starling Marte threw aggressively and errantly back to the infield. Robinson tagged and ran to third when Escobar flew out, and scampered home on the contact play when Kole Calhoun grounded out to second.
In the third, Carlos Perez knocked a one-out single and scored when Gregorio Petit doubled to the crevice in PNC Park’s spacious left-center field. Petit scored the Angels’ sixth run when Robinson then singled to left.
In the fourth, Calhoun clobbered another Liriano fastball 428 feet to center field, nearly clearing the bleachers. Trout laced the next pitch to left and Pujols singled to center, forcing Liriano’s removal.
“We’re playing baseball as a team,” Calhoun said. “It’s nice to play baseball like that.”
In the matchup of two 30-somethings who once dominated, Weaver won. While not hindered by the same loss of velocity as Weaver, Liriano extended his grim season with his performance. He has given up four or more earned runs in five of his 11 starts in 2016.
Weaver has done the same.
His struggles Friday night were confined to the second inning, when Starling Marte and Jung-Ho Kang launched consecutive home runs to similar spots beyond the left-field fence. Giavotella followed by throwing a grounder away, but Weaver rebounded and worked his way out of the inning. He faced only one hitter over the minimum — Kang doubled — through the next three innings.
In the sixth, Andrew McCutchen led off with a single but was quickly erased on a Gregory Polanco groundout. Marte followed with a hit to left that hit the grass just before Robinson could reach it. But Kang lined out, and Weaver struck out Josh Harrison, earning handshakes when he returned to the dugout.
In April, Weaver guaranteed he would return to his dominant ways in 2016. He has struck more delicate tones while struggling to a 5.18 earned-run average since, but, on Friday night, he spoke similarly when asked about his feelings one-third of the way through the season.
“You’ll know when I’m feeling good,” he said.
“You’ll know,” he said.
Follow Pedro Moura on Twitter: @pedromoura