Will Jered Weaver’s no-hitter help Angels turn things around?


Jered Weaver couldn’t hold back the tears in the aftermath of his first career no-hitter on Wednesday night against the Minnesota Twins.

After an emotional celebration with his Angels teammates, he hugged his parents and his wife before taking the microphone to address the crowd.

“My mom, my dad, my wife, I mean this is awesome to have these guys (here),” he said. “This is why I stayed here for you guys. This is awesome.”

It was the biggest of moments for the native of Northridge Simi Valley, Calif., who stunned many last August when he gave up the right to become a free agent and instead signed a five-year, $85 million deal to stay with his hometown Angels. (It’s a deal that includes a full no-trade clause, by the way.)

Yes, the Twins are a bad team that was playing without Justin Morneau, but Weaver was hardly touched, allowing only two runners on the evening. The first came in the second inning, as Chris Parmelee reached base on a strikeout when Angels catcher Chris Iannetta was unable to hold onto the ball. Weaver later let Iannetta off the hook for ruining a potential perfect game, walking Josh Willingham with two outs in the seventh.

Weaver pitched masterfully, even if his stuff wasn’t electric. His fastball averaged only 89 mph (topping out at 92.8), but his pitches had plenty of movement and he lived on the edges of the strike zone.

“Weaver had everything working,” Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos told MLB Network radio. “His fastball he was locating on both sides of the plate. … It was fun to watch. He worked quick and pounded the zone and really kept them off balance. It was a pretty easy night for me. I think the fly balls I got were routine popups. I barely had to move.”

Two of the final three outs were fairly well hit – Jamey Carroll flew out to Vernon Wells in left field leading off the ninth, and Alexi Casilla hit a drive to right that Torii Hunter ran down on the warning track to end it. Otherwise the Twins managed to compile little more than a collection of lazy fly balls and pop-ups, whiffing nine times.

Moving forward, you have to wonder if this is the sort of thing that will help the Angels relax and begin playing the sort of ball most expected of them when they signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson in the offseason. Playing the Twins certainly helps, as a scuffling offense woke up to score 17 runs in a three-game sweep. They’re 10-15 now and seven games behind the powerful Rangers, but there is a lot of baseball to be played, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that this could still be a 90-win team, or even better.

“I think the offense is starting to wake up,” Bourjos said. “The pitching’s been there most of the year and it’s just really on the offense. That middle of the order, you saw what it did tonight, and I think it’s going to continue the rest of the year.”

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Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.