Angels laud Mathis for 'huge impact' in win

Angels laud Mathis for 'huge impact' in win

Angels laud Mathis for 'huge impact' in win
ANAHEIM -- The box score, with all of its numbers, is a helpful device. But it doesn't tell you anything close to the whole story of a baseball game.

Here is catcher Jeff Mathis' line in the Angels' 1-0 victory over the Rangers on Thursday at Angel Stadium:

At-bats: 3. Runs, hits and RBI: 0. Walks: 0. Strikeouts: 2.

Any high-school kid off the street could have done that, right? Of course.

What the numbers didn't provide was an insightful analysis from winning pitcher Jered Weaver, who threw seven of the nine scoreless innings that moved his Angels to within three games of Texas in the American League West race.

"Jeff had as much of an impact on this game as anybody," Weaver said. "I love having the guy back there, knowing he'll block anything I throw in any situation. Our whole defense was great today, but we couldn't have won this game without him, that's for sure."

The one stat that did show up in the box was Mathis throwing out Elvis Andrus trying to steal third base. It happened in the first inning -- two on, one out, Adrian Beltre at the plate.

Andrus, with 28 steals in 32 attempts, had Mathis' attention. As Andrus took off on a 1-1 pitch, an inside fastball, the catcher was in position to throw a strike to Alberto Callaspo, and that's what he did. Andrus was erased -- just the fifth time all season -- and the Rangers went quietly.

"He'll do anything out there," Mathis said of Andrus. "He's a game-changer. We called a heater in [on the corner], a good pitch to throw on.

"Any out against those guys is huge. That whole lineup, top to bottom, can drive the ball. I put it up there with Boston's. They can hurt you."

Mathis also proved pivotal when the Rangers stretched Weaver, the 6-foot-7 AL Cy Young Award candidate, to his limits in the sixth inning.

Texas loaded the bases with two outs on Beltre's double, a walk and an infield hit. This brought Mitch Moreland to the plate with a chance to bust it wide open.

Pitching carefully, Weaver got ahead 1-2 in the count. He then bounced a slider that Mathis smothered, the runners holding. The next pitch was a high fastball, and Moreland swung through it, to a roar from the crowd and an emotional reaction by the pitcher.

"I know in that situation that Jered is going to bury it," Mathis said of the slider in the dirt. "I know I've got to get in position and keep it in front of me. Moreland actually did a good job not offering at it, because it was a good pitch."

Having altered the hitter's eye level with that pitch, Weaver now had Moreland set up for the high fastball he would use to dispatch the power hitter.

"Jered knows he can throw the breaking ball any time, and Jeff is going to block it," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "That slider gave the fastball that came after it a little more late life.

"Jeff blocked four or five tough pitches today. It makes a big difference when a pitcher is comfortable putting a ball in the dirt like Jered did to that guy."

A pitch that did get away, by Texas southpaw C.J. Wilson, led to the Angels' run in the second inning. Howard Kendrick, who was hit by a pitch in the foot, moved to second on the wild pitch as Mark Trumbo struck out. Kendrick scored when Endy Chavez mishandled Mike Trout's fly ball to right-center for an error.

Weaver has defended Mathis repeatedly. And why wouldn't he? Weaver's ERA with Mathis this year is 1.72 in 115 innings. Weaver's career ERA with Mathis catching is 3.16 in 552 1/3 innings, compared to 3.29 overall.

"The only numbers that really matter are wins and losses," Weaver said. "We've won a lot more than we've lost since Jeff's been catching here.

"I can't go off of what fans think. I know they've been hard on him, but he's a pretty strong individual. He doesn't let his hitting bother his catching any, I can tell you that. Besides, it's only a matter of time before he starts swinging it."

The critics claim Mathis, batting .188, has had enough time and doesn't deserve to play as much as he does. Scioscia would love to see more offense from his catcher but likes the 29-20 record his team has with Mathis behind the plate.

"Jeff needs to bring more offense to our team," Scioscia said. "We need that. But what we really need is the ability he brings to the defensive end. He helps us win games in a lot of ways that don't show up in the box score.

"We saw that again today. He had a huge impact on that ballgame."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.