Jered Weaver varied his pitches to great effect throughout seven innings at U.S. Cellular Field on Thursday afternoon. He did not vary his answers afterward.
In a performance that seemed improbable if not impossible one month ago, when he was struggling to retire Class-A hitters in empty spring-training ballparks, the 33-year-old right-hander held the Chicago White Sox to three hits and one run as the Angels won, 3-2.
Closer Huston Street was on the brink of blowing a two-run lead in the ninth inning, yielding a home run, consecutive walks and a deep fly to Austin Jackson, but the ball stopped just short of the left-field wall. The Angels had their victory to salvage an even split out of a 10-game trip.
Mike Trout launched a two-run home run off White Sox starter John Danks in the fifth and the Angels added a run in the ninth on a Carlos Perez suicide squeeze. But, above all, Weaver’s rejuvenation compelled. He did it, it seemed, with amalgamation and deception, throwing all five of his pitches between 15 and 21 times.
“Everything was there,” Scioscia said. “It looked like his fastball command was there. It looked like he was a little crisper. That was a great effort.”
Crispness has been Scioscia’s euphemism of choice for velocity in recent seasons. To be crisp is to throw hard, and though Weaver did not throw hard Thursday, he threw harder than he had since last year. He reached 85 mph multiple times and once touched 86. He had not surpassed 84 during his first two starts of the season.
Apparently angry at reporters after the game, Weaver declined to provide his perspective on how he excelled. He repeated the same refrain to most questions, praising Perez’s work at catcher, the offensive effort and Street’s save: “Carlos called a great game, Trout hit a two-run homer, we were able to tack one on there and Huston shut the door.”
Earlier this month, Weaver said he was “100%” certain he would add strength and velocity to his pitching. Asked Thursday if he is starting to see what he predicted, he shirked the question.
“I don’t know,” he said. “You guys tell me.”
Told that it appeared so, he repeated the refrain a fourth time. He was then asked if he did not want to talk about himself.
“I never want to talk about myself,” he said.
Others were willing. Trout noticed the 86 tick across the scoreboard, and said he saw “nothing but positives” from Weaver’s performance. White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier said the necessary approach to opposing Weaver is to “just play Wiffle ball like you are little.”
“Take it as a knuckleball pitcher and slow everything down,” said Frazier, who singled once in three at-bats and then homered off Street. “He got me a couple of times, and I tried to slow my feet down. Once you rush, he’s going to get you.”
On Thursday, the White Sox hit only three balls into play at an exit velocity of 95 mph or higher — a good indicator of a well-struck ball. Brett Lawrie hit that mark with a second-inning double, and Melky Cabrera hit 103 on his seventh-inning home run. The other was an Avisail Garcia flyout.
“Even if he doesn’t gain velocity, the execution of pitches today was really great,” Scioscia said. “He used all his pitches and set up a margin of error.”
Setup man Joe Smith picked off the only baserunner he allowed in the eighth inning. Street, yet to touch 90 mph with a pitch this season, ran into more trouble in his inning, relying on off-speed pitches.
With two on and two out, he hung a first-pitch slider to Jackson. Behind the plate, Perez jumped to his feet, and Street twitched his neck to his right. The ball seemed gone. But Craig Gentry ran back, braced his right hand for the wall and caught it.