Dream Weaver start over
In his first six starts of 2011, Angels righthander Jered Weaver had been nothing short of perfect.
A day after the Red Sox won a game started by reigning Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez, they took out their patient bats again and made Weaver work for every out and every strike he got. Weaver dropped to 6-1 in his shortest and worst outing of the season, a 9-5 loss to the Red Sox last night at Fenway Park.
Weaver posted his seventh straight quality start — giving up three runs in six innings — but he labored through a 118-pitch outing. Dustin Pedroia’s phenomenal 13-pitch at-bat in the fifth inning epitomized Weaver’s night. Pedroia fouled off nine pitches before driving a two-run single up the middle to give the Sox a 3-2 lead.
This was a big feat for a Red Sox team that entered the game hitting only .243.
“I felt great,’’ said Weaver, who needed 38 pitches to get out of the fifth inning alone. “Still felt good in the fifth and still locating. Thought there was one pitch that could have gotten me out of the inning that didn’t go my way and led to a big inning. The big battle by Pedroia. He had a good at-bat. He fouled stuff off, got a good pitch to hit and lined it up. Always seems to be some little thing in Boston that just doesn’t seem to go my way. We’ll roll with it and move on.’’
Weaver, who throws across his body, may have been victimized by a questionable call by plate umpire Scott Barry earlier in the fifth inning. With Carl Crawford on second after a one-out double, Barry seemed to miss a called third strike on Jason Varitek, who ended up walking. Jacoby Ellsbury reached on a fielder’s choice before Pedroia’s epic at-bat.
“Looked like it was a decent pitch,’’ said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. “You’re gonna have pitches go your way and not go your way. It’s not gonna come down to one pitch. You have to absorb the calls you don’t get and you have to keep playing and we weren’t able to play at a high enough level tonight. I think Weaver felt the pitch was a good one. That’s one pitch in a ballgame. I don’t think anyone is gonna hang their hat on one pitch. We couldn’t get enough pressure offensively.’’
Weaver entered the game with drop-dead numbers. He was coming off a pair of complete-game victories in which he gave up only one run with 18 strikeouts. He won his sixth game April 25, the earliest date a pitcher reached that mark in major league history. Weaver had 49 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings with only 10 walks. He faced the Sox after being pushed back a day in Tampa Bay because of a stomach virus.
The Sox now head into tonight’s game against Dan Haren, another tough customer, having survived tough outings against Hernandez and Weaver. That could be a boost to an offense that has been inconsistent.
It takes an incredible performance by a team to beat a pitcher like Weaver when he is on his game. Leave it to Pedroia to produce such a performance. Not only did Pedroia have that crucial at-bat, but his defensive gem earlier in the fifth inning had the Angels buzzing, too.
With the bases loaded, Bobby Abreu hit a sharp grounder up the middle that deflected off Clay Buchholz. Pedroia had broken toward the bag, but the ball went the other way. He turned his body 180 degrees on the fly to field the ball and fire to shortstop Jed Lowrie at second base for a force out. Pedroia’s play quelled an Angels rally and held them to one run.
“That’s what he does,’’ Weaver said of Pedroia. “He’s a great hitter. He didn’t win an MVP for nothing. He wants to battle you and he’s a bulldog and I am, too. He won the battle this time. I’m not gonna change anything the way it went down. He won the battle.’’
Weaver said he wasn’t fatigued because of the stomach virus despite the 118 pitches.
But it seemed the Sox wore him down with their patience. Weaver said he got behind in the count in the early innings and that caught up to him later.
Fenway Park has not been kind to Weaver over the years, and he groused about some of the problems pitching in Boston that are not “baseball-oriented.’’ He mentioned how fans are on top of the action and one can hear what they’re saying. Weaver said it’s a great atmosphere, but his career numbers tell another story: He dropped to 1-3 with a 7.16 ERA in six career starts at Fenway. In 11 career starts against the Sox, Weaver is 2-5 with a 4.41 ERA.
When asked to elaborate on his thoughts about Fenway, Weaver took a step back.
“I’m not gonna feed you guys [the media] what you want,’’ he said. “Finito.’’
Just like his historic season-opening winning streak. Finito.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.