The night started with an ominous tone. 15 pitches to the leadoff batter, and 27 pitches to get through the first inning alone. It certainly looked like Jered Weaver was headed for an early shower.
The New York Yankees came to Angel Stadium with a vaunted offensive attack that led the American League in home runs and runs scored. Oh yeah, and they were first in walks as well.
The Yankees also came to town when Angels’ starter Weaver clearly did not bring his superior stuff to the mound with him. His fastball was a good 3 MPH slower than normal, and by the seventh inning, it was down considerably, the ball registering 86 MPH on the radar gun.
Yet still, through a night where the “A” game was left in the bullpen and the walks were piling up, Weaver was able to battle through seven innings on the way to first win in well over a month.
However, Weaver himself thought his night would be short-lived after the 15-pitch at-bat to leadoff hitter Derek Jeter. The two glanced at each other after Jeter finally popped out to end the at-bat.
“I said to him: “You’ve got to be kidding me,” Weaver told the Associated Press. “I didn’t think I’d get through the third inning with 15 pitches to the leadoff batter. I didn’t have my good fastball command, so I tried to take something off the fastball and rely on my changeup more.”
Weaver indeed threw more changeups, as was able to keep Yankees hitters off balance all night, especially Curtis Granderson, who was 0-4 with three strikeouts.
For the night, Weaver threw 119 pitches, 71 for strikes. He gave up two runs on three hits, walking four and striking out eight. From the fifth through the seventh innings, Weaver dialed back on the fastball and relied more on off-speed stuff, finally gaining command of the strike zone. He needed just 12 pitches in the fifth, six in the sixth and 12 in the seventh, giving manager Mike Scioscia pause after pondering how he would line up his bullpen if Weaver indeed only went five.
Scott Downs and Jordan Walden pitched scoreless ball over the next two innings, with Walden picking up his 13th save. But on this night, Weaver showed that he can pitch with savvy, guts and guile.