The Los Angeles Angels continued their recent turnaround on Wednesday with a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the third game of their four game ”Freeway Series.”
More importantly, Angel’s starter Jered Weaver made his first start since returning from the disabled list, throwing four perfect innings to begin the game in his 100th career start at Angel Stadium. Making just his third start of the year, Weaver lasted six innings and gave up one run on six hits, while striking out seven Dodgers in the Angel’s first win of the interleague series.
After being hit by a line drive during a game in Texas on April 9th that resulted in a broken left elbow, the right-hander was anxious to get back on the mound and prove to himself that he could still perform at an All-Star level. Weaver expressed his concerns to the Associated Press after the win.
‘‘I was just worried about getting the first out,” said Weaver. “That was the most nerve-racking. When you haven’t been out there in a while, you ask yourself; ”Can I still do this?”
After getting off to a dismal start this season, the Angels have begun to turn things around recently and despite having lost the first two games of the ”Freeway Series”, they’ve won eight of their past ten games overall. Currently third in the American League West, the Angels (24-29) are still 8.5 games behind the Texas Rangers for first and will have to leapfrog a solid Oakland A’s team if they hope to have any real chance at a playoff run.
There were high hopes for this Angel’s team and rightfully so after acquiring arguably the best hitter on the free agent market during each of the past two off-seasons. The big-money prize of the 2011-12 free agent market, Albert Pujols, had the franchise losing sleep during his famously slow start to his first season in the American League last year. Fortunately for the Angels, Pujols once again showed the baseball world why he is a future Hall of Famer and worked through the slump, finishing his first year on the west coast with 30 home runs and 105 runs batted in.
Now, as this past off-season’s most coveted, free-agent slugger, Josh Hamilton, has also gotten off to a slow start and is currently bothered by back spasms, the Angels are likely experiencing some very unwanted deja vu. With a 2013 salary of $17.4 million dollars, the Halos were obviously expecting Hamilton to at least equal his 2012 offensive production in which he hit 43 home runs and drove in 128 with a .284 batting average in his final season as a Texas Ranger. As of now, Hamilton has gone deep eight times but has driven in just 18 runs while hitting an unacceptable .219 on the year.
With a lineup that has two of the best young players in the game in 2012 A.L. Rookie of The Year winner Mike Trout (10 HR-37 RBI-.298 AVG) and hard-hitting first baseman Mark Trumbo (12 HR-37 RBI .277 AVG), the potential for this team to compete for a World Series ring is immense.
Poor starting pitching will send you home early however, on a staff that includes CJ Wilson (4-1, 3.95 ERA), the Angels will need all the quality starts that they can get from Weaver (1-1, 3.71 ERA) and along with Wilson, will be expected to anchor the starting rotation going forward.
The energy among the crowd at Angel Stadium was indeed palpable for Weaver’s Wednesday night return and both teammates as well as Manager Mike Scioscia weren’t exempt from the night’s excitement while watching the right-hander take the hill for the first time in nearly two months. Clearly pleased with Weaver’s return, Scioscia spoke to ESPN.com after the game.
”When your lead dog is out there, there’s definitely a presence.”
The Angels will need as much of Weaver’s ”presence” as his health permits if the team hopes to claw their way back to their usual place among the American League giants. With the season not yet halfway complete, there is plenty of time for the Angels to mount an attack on both the A’s and Rangers and almost as if it were previously planned this way, the return of Weaver couldn’t have come at a better time.