Jered Weaver entered his 2016 season with something to prove, and on Sunday, in his debut against the hard-hitting Rangers, the Angels' longtime ace made a statement.
With a fastball that topped out at 84 mph and a breaking ball that was thrown in the mid-60s, Weaver used pinpoint control and masterful pitch selection to hold the Rangers to just one run through six innings, setting the tone in the Angels' 3-1 victory in the series finale.
"He exemplifies pitching," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Weaver, now 11-0 with a 2.23 ERA in his career against Texas at Angel Stadium. "I think it's been talked about to exhaustion, about velocity. When he hits his spots, he's effective."
The Rangers -- who got three of their hits, including a homer, from rookie Nomar Mazara in his MLB debut -- put two runners on in the first, third and fourth innings but never scored, leaving lefty Martin Perez with the loss.
Perez issued five walks and surrendered seven hits, but was charged with just three runs in 6 1/3 innings. The Angels picked up a couple of runs in the third, on a run-scoring groundout byMike Trout and an RBI single by Albert Pujols. Trout tacked on an additional run with a sacrifice fly in the seventh as the Angels evened the four-game series.
"The walks -- that's what I need to work on," Perez said. "I don't want to give up free bases. I need to attack hitters and pound the strike zone."
The Rangers sit 3-4 and will now head to Seattle for a first-week rematch against the Mariners. The Angels, who begin a 10-game road trip on Monday, finished the first week of the season 2-4.
Said Weaver: "Any time you get a win, in the position we were in, either to tie this series or lose a series, it's nice to get a win."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Making it work: Despite all the questions centered on his velocity and overall health,Weaver shined in his 2016 debut, stranding six baserunners to keep the Rangers to only one run in a six-inning, 84-pitch performance. Weaver threw his fastball anywhere from 79 to 84 mph, mixing in a 72-73-mph changeup and breaking balls in the mid-60s. He struck out four and walked one.
"He's a workhorse, man," Angels catcher Geovany Soto said. "He'll give you everything he's got. Anything, any count, he's aggressive coming after you. That's what stood out. He's coming after you at all times. No matter how many guys are on base, who's hitting, he's coming after you. That's one of the things I didn't quite see in spring, but it was great to see today.
Mazara the Magnificent: Mazara singled in his first two at-bats. Then he came up in the fifth inning and launched a 79-mph pitch from Weaver deep into the center-field seats for his first Major League home run. The exit velocity was 105 mph, and the Statcast™ projected distance was 443 feet. Mazara is the eighth Rangers player to hit a home run in his Major League debut and the fifth to have a three-hit game. Joey Gallo had a three-hit game in his debut last year.
"I just wanted to have fun," Mazara said. "Everything seemed normal. That's why I was able to enjoy the game."
Closing the door: A slim lead meant Angels manager Mike Scioscia got to deploy his late-game strategy for the first time this season. Fernando Salas took the ball in the seventh, pitching a 1-2-3 inning to pave the way for Joe Smith and Huston Street. Cliff Penningtonchecked in for second baseman Johnny Giavotella for defense. The Angels' bullpen allowed just one baserunner in the final three frames, striking out four.
Clutch hitting failure: The Rangers were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position on the afternoon. The fourth inning stood out. Mitch Moreland and Ian Desmond led off the inning with singles, putting runners on first and second. Elvis Andrus followed with a fly to right that moved Moreland to third. But Hanser Alberto, swinging at a first-pitch 72-mph changeup, popped out, and Bryan Holaday struck out to end the inning.
"I still feel like we had an approach that was solid," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "[Weaver] reads at-bats very well and he reads batters very well. He has been around a long time and is a smart pitcher. You've got to get him over the plate and he doesn't give in. It has to be a patient approach."
QUOTABLE "It makes me look forward to the future in baseball, as opposed to thinking about shutting it down." -- Weaver, on alleviating tightness in his shoulder, hip and back, which allowed him to pitch well against the Rangers
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Sunday's victory marked Weaver's 139th career win, passing Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan for second place on the club's all-time list. Chuck Finley is the Angels' leader with 165. Weaver also finished the afternoon with 1,499 career strikeouts. Only five active pitchers have amassed 1,500 with one franchise -- Matt Cain, Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum and Justin Verlander.
"I didn't come here for personal accolades," Weaver said. "I came here to win championships. Today's win was a step in getting to that goal. With that being said, it's very humbling to be put in the same sentence as guys who have done great things for this organization."
WHAT'S NEXT Rangers: The Rangers open a three-game series with the Mariners at 9:05 p.m. CT Monday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Colby Lewis pitches for the Rangers, who lost two of three to the Mariners last week in Arlington. Hisashi Iwakuma starts for Seattle.
Angels:Nick Tropeano takes the ball opposite A's ace Sonny Gray when the Angels travel to Oakland to begin a three-game series at 7:05 p.m. PT on Monday. Tropeano is taking the rotation spot of an injured Andrew Heaney (left forearm tightness).