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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The Cubs clinch World Series berth with NLCS Game 6 win

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  The Chicago Cubs celebrate defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 in game six of the National League Championship Series to advance to the World Series against the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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After 71 years, the Cubs are headed back to the Fall Classic.

The dominance with which Clayton Kershaw attacked the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS was nonexistent in Game 6 as the Dodgers’ ace loaded the bases to start the first inning and scattered five extra bases and five runs over five frames. By the time Dave Roberts pulled his starter in the sixth inning, Kershaw was sitting on a Game Score of 33, the lowest he’s mustered since the start of the 2015 season. Only one of his strikes came via curveball, and whether he was having difficulty locating his off-speed stuff or felt more confident with the fastball-slider combo, it was the fewest curves he’d seen land for strikes all year (per David Adler).

Where the Dodgers were able to give Kershaw the edge in Game 2, they found themselves powerless against opposing hurler Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks turned out 7 1/3 scoreless frames with two hits and six strikeouts, preserving the Cubs’ second shutout of the postseason and the first since they bested the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. After his 1-0 loss to the Dodgers early in the NLCS, seeing the MLB ERA leader turn out a gem was a relief for the Cubs, especially one as spectacular as an 88-pitch two-hitter.

With Hendricks effectively stymieing the Dodgers’ best attempts to get on base, the Cubs played to their strengths at the plate. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist cleared the bases in the first inning for a two-run lead, followed by a Dexter Fowler RBI single in the second. Willson Contreras came through in the fourth inning for the Cubs, lifting an 87 m.p.h. slider to left field for his first home run of October, while Anthony Rizzo hit his second homer of the postseason on a 1-1 fastball in the fifth.

Neither bullpen allowed a single run from the sixth inning onward. Dodgers’ right-hander Kenley Jansen took the ball from Kershaw in the sixth, scattering four strikeouts over three innings and denying the Cubs so much as a single baserunner through the end of the game. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, issued just one walk in 1 1/3 scoreless frames, inducing a Yasiel Puig double play to clinch the Cubs’ 17th franchise pennant.

With the win, the Cubs will face off against the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at 8 PM EDT. And, in case you needed a reminder:

Video: Willson Contreras blasts first postseason home run off of Kershaw

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game six of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.

According to MLB.com’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).

Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.