ANAHEIM — Jered Weaver downplayed the speculation a week and a half ago when reporters compared his statistics with other American League pitchers, mapped out the Angels’ rotation and surmised he was a leading candidate to start the July 12 All-Star game in Phoenix.
“Oh God,” Weaver said June 22, “I think we’re a little ways away from that.”
In giving up one run and four hits in eight innings of a 7-1 interleague victory over the Dodgers on Saturday night at Angel Stadium, Weaver may have solidified his first-ever All-Star game start.
Weaver improved to 10-4 and lowered his Major League-best earned-run average to 1.92, joining Frank Tanana as the only two pitchers in club history with at least 10 victories and a sub-2.00 ERA on or before July 2. Tanana had 11 wins and a 1.82 ERA in 1977.
The 28-year-old right-hander ranks second in the league in innings pitched (1311⁄3), fifth in strikeouts (114), third in opponents’ batting average (.194), and has given up one earned run or less in 11 of 18 starts.
Vernon Wells capped a three-run third inning with a two-run home run against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, and Bobby Abreu capped a three-run fourth with a two-run single, providing Weaver with a rare bounty of runs.
Weaver didn’t waste the support, striking out eight and walking two, his only blemish in the fifth inning, when James Loney doubled and scored on Trent Oeltjen’s sacrifice fly.
Weaver’s only other tense moment came in the seventh inning, when the Dodgers put runners on second and third with two outs. Weaver struck out Oeltjen swinging to end the inning.
Weaver’s next start — his last before the All-Star break — will be Thursday night against Seattle. That would put him in line to start the All-Star game on regular rest.
One of Weaver’s stiffest competitors for the start, Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander, is scheduled to start July 10, which would make him ineligible to pitch in the All-Star game.
Like Weaver, Kershaw appears to be a lock to make the All-Star team, which will be announced this morning. Kershaw began Saturday night’s game with an 8-3 record and 2.93 ERA and a National League-leading 128 strikeouts.
The 23-year-old left-hander was also riding a six-game winning streak that included complete-game wins over the Tigers (two-hitter, 11 strikeouts) on June 20 and the Angels (six-hitter, 11 strikeouts) on June 26.
In his past three starts combined, Kershaw gave up only three runs and 12 hits in 25 innings, and he was facing an Angels offense that had scored one run in its previous 18 innings.
Kershaw opened with two scoreless innings, giving up two singles and striking out four, but two innings later, the Dodgers were down, 6-0.
A leadoff double by .187-hitting Jeff Mathis sparked the Angels’ third-inning rally. Mathis took third on Maicer Izturis’ grounder to second base and scored on Erick Aybar’s fielder’s-choice grounder to the shortstop hole.
Abreu struck out looking for the second out, but Wells, who hit a ninth-inning home run against Kershaw in Dodger Stadium on June 26, sent a line drive over the left-field wall for a two-run home run, his 11th, and a 3-0 Angels lead.
Alberto Callaspo led off the fourth inning with a walk and took second on Peter Bourjos’ bunt single. Mathis popped up a bunt try that Kershaw caught with Callaspo more than half way to third base.
Had Kershaw set himself and made an accurate throw to second base, the Dodgers would have had a double play. But Kershaw opted for an off-balance throw that pulled shortstop Dee Gordon too far off the bag to double up Callaspo.
Izturis struck out for the second out, but Aybar hit a run-scoring single to left field for a 4-0 lead, and Abreu dropped a two-run single to center field to make it 6-0.
The Angels scored their final run in the sixth inning when Bourjos singled, stole second, took third on Mathis’ sacrifice bunt and scored when Gordon’s throw on Aybar’s grounder pulled Loney off the bag at first base.