The fuel light was on, but Jered Weaver was not running on fumes, at least in the eyes of his manager.
The right-hander’s pitch count at 119 after two one-out walks in the eighth inning, Mike Scioscia left his ace on the mound to face Toronto slugger Jose Bautista, who led the major leagues with 54 home runs last season.
Weaver, trying to protect a two-run lead, fell behind in the count, 3 and 1. A foul tip on a fastball ran the count full, and Weaver got Bautista to swing through a low slider for his career-high 15th strikeout of the game.
Weaver left to a rousing standing ovation, and Hisanori Takahashi and Fernando Rodney got the final four outs to preserve the Angels’ 3-1 victory over the Blue Jays in Angel Stadium.
Weaver, who led the major leagues with 233 strikeouts last season, finished with a career-high 125 pitches in only his third start of the season, giving up one run and four hits in 72/3 innings to improve to 3-0 with an 0.87 earned-run average.
“He was pretty good,” catcher Bobby Wilson said of Weaver, who gave up his first hit, an infield single, with two out in the fifth inning. “I didn’t really have to move my glove a whole lot. That was pretty impressive.”
Weaver was the first Angel to strike out 15 batters in a game since left-hander Chuck Finley did it against the New York Yankees on May 23, 1995. Nolan Ryan holds the franchise record with 19 strikeouts in a game.
Weaver also gave a bullpen that threw 91/3 innings in Saturday night’s 6-5, 14-inning win over Toronto a much-needed breather. Takahashi got Adam Lind to ground out to end the eighth and Rodney retired the side in order in the ninth for his second save.
“That was huge for us,” Wilson said. “That’s what your ace does for a club. He steps up, gives you innings and gets the win when you need it.”
The Angels took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Howie Kendrick walked, took third on Bobby Abreu’s single and scored on Torii Hunter’s single to left field.
They took advantage of center fielder Rajai Davis’ error to score two unearned runs in the fourth inning, Peter Bourjos lining a two-run triple to right-center field for a 3-0 lead.
Weaver, who struck out the side in the third inning, lost his shutout when Jose Molina doubled to open the sixth, took third on John McDonald’s single and scored on Yunel Escobar’s single that pulled the Blue Jays to within 3-1.
Weaver wobbled again in the eighth inning when, with one out, he walked McDonald and Escobar before Bautista stepped to the plate.
“I was a little tired — I’m not going to lie to you — and it was getting a little warm out there,” Weaver said. “But I knew Scioscia was going to let me stay in. I felt good, and I made some pitches.”
Weaver had excellent command of a lively fastball and slider, working ahead in the count all afternoon, and Wilson said he didn’t call for a changeup until the fifth or sixth inning.
Though Weaver lost his command in the eighth — his second walk of the inning, to Escobar, was on four pitches — Scioscia’s faith in his starter did not waver.
“His pitch count was getting a little high, but I thought he had enough to get Bautista,” Scioscia said. “With [the left-handed] Lind on deck, I felt Weaver could get after Bautista, and then we’d have the lefty for Lind. He fell behind but came back and made some terrific pitches.”