Weaver's quick start a boon for Halos

Weaver's quick start a boon for Halos

ANAHEIM -- It hasn't drawn a great deal of attention, but few pitchers in the Majors have been better this season than Jered Weaver.

Putting the rotation on his shoulders along with 2008 American League All-Star Joe Saunders (with John Lackey, Ervin Santana and Kelvim Escobar all on the comeback trail) Weaver has been brilliant. He's tied with Saunders for sixth in the AL in ERA at 2.66, and his opponents' batting average of .209 is fourth lowest in the league.

And home, this season, is clearly where the heart is. Weaver's 1.21 ERA at Angel Stadium is the third-best home ERA in the league.

Weaver is coming off one of the finest efforts of his career, a complete-game triumph over the Blue Jays, cooling off the hottest-hitting club in the Majors. The only run was a homer by Aaron Hill.

"It felt great to show I can go the distance," Weaver said. "A big key was getting ahead of guys [20 of 30 men he faced got first-pitch strikes] and getting some early-count outs.

"It's all about command, making good pitches in good spots -- especially early in the game."

Striking out eight men, Weaver went only three over the minimum. He walked none, tying up hitters with a slider that he felt was as good as he's ever had over the course of a game.

Weaver has a history of pitching well against the Red Sox, and he'd love to duplicate his effort against Boston in his season debut. Going 6 2/3 innings, he yielded just four hits and two walks while striking out eight, the one run produced by the Sox unearned.

Weaver's 31 strikeouts against nine walks in 40 2/3 innings are reflective of solid command and premium stuff -- a powerful blend when complemented by a cross-firing delivery that can make his 91 mph heater look closer to 101.

The Angels took two of three from Boston in an April 10-12 series at Angel Stadium launched by Weaver's decision over Tim Wakefield. The Angels were 8-1 against Boston last season, but the Sox took three of four when it really counted, in October's American League Division Series, to eliminate the Angels for the second year in a row.

The Red Sox are looking forward to getting Kevin Youkilis, one of the AL's most productive weapons, back at first base after being sidelined with a sore left side.

Youkilis has spent six straight days on the bench. He admitted that task is made more bearable by the way Jason Bay has served in the cleanup spot during his absence.

"He can hit there," Youkilis said. "If he's going to hit the way he is, he can stay there. I'll hit anywhere in the lineup except for leadoff. I don't mind. I'll hit sixth, I don't mind. I've hit there before. I don't think it bothers any of these guys here. It's such a good lineup. I'll hit sixth, seventh -- I don't care. It's actually better to hit sixth or seventh. You get more RBIs."

Youkilis is hitting .393 with a league-best .505 on-base percentage. He's second to Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria in slugging at .719.

Though Youkilis says that he isn't a fan of watching baseball, he admits his teammates have been putting on a pretty good show for him.

"We're winning," Youkilis said. "If we were losing, yeah, I'd be really [mad]. I don't like to sit and watch baseball games, it's not fun. But it's fun to watch this. Twelve-run inning with no outs? That was fun to watch. It's a lot easier when we're playing good baseball. Watching these guys play good baseball is awesome."

The Angels' four-game winning streak is their longest of the season. They've won seven of the past eight and 10 of 13.

Pitching matchup
LAA: RHP Jered Weaver (3-1, 2.66 ERA)
Weaver is coming off his first career complete game, shutting down the explosive Blue Jays on Thursday night on one run and three hits while striking out eight men. Weaver went only three over the minimum, walked none, tying up hitters with a slider that he felt was as good as he's ever had over the course of a game. His only mistake was an elevated pitch that Aaron Hill launched for a home run. Weaver beat the Red Sox in his season debut at home, holding them to one unearned run 6 2/3 innings, striking out eight and walking two on April 10. He's 2-2 with a 4.46 ERA in seven career starts against Boston. At home this year, he has yielded just four earned runs in 29 2/3 innings while going 3-0.

BOS: RHP Justin Masterson (2-2, 5.28 ERA)
Masterson's last two starts have been strikingly similar. He was strong early, only to falter badly in the middle innings. In the two losses, Masterson has given up 12 runs over 12 1/3 innings. Masterson's lone appearance against the Angels this season came out of the bullpen and it wasn't good, as he gave up four hits and three runs over one inning. In four starts since replacing the injured Daisuke Matsuzaka in the rotation, Masterson is 2-2 with a 5.48 ERA.

Tidbits
Lackey, recovering from a strained right forearm, moved closer to rejoining the rotation with five innings on Sunday for Triple-A Salt Lake against Portland. Lackey yielded five hits and three earned runs, walking none and striking out five while making 75 pitches, 49 for strikes. He hopes to be back in the Angels' rotation on the upcoming road trip, which opens on Friday in Texas. ... The Angels optioned right-hander Anthony Ortega to Salt Lake. A move to replace him on the roster is expected by Tuesday. ... Jeff Mathis, who had a key two-run single on Sunday, is batting .467 with runners in scoring position (7-for-15). The Angels are 100-54 in his past 154 starts behind the plate. ... Erick Aybar is on fire with nine hits in his past 17 at-bats, raising his average to .309. ... Bobby Abreu's four walks on Sunday tied the club record, last accomplished by Reggie Willits on Aug. 3, 2008. Trivia: Who was the opposing pitcher on the one occasion Willits has batted third for the Angels and played the entire game? Answer: Gil Meche of the Royals on May 3, 2007. Willits was 1-for-3 with a walk, his average actually dropping to .415.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FS-W

On radio
• KLAA 830, KFWB, KWKW 1330 (Español)

Up next
• Wednesday: Angels (Matt Palmer, 3-0, 3.06) vs. Red Sox (Tim Wakefield, 4-1, 2.93), 7:05 p.m. PT
• Thursday: Angels (Joe Saunders, 5-1, 2.66) vs. Red Sox (Brad Penny, 3-1, 6.90), 12:35 p.m. PT
• Friday: Angels (TBD) at Rangers (Kevin Millwood, 3-3, 2.92), 5:05 p.m. PT

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