Jered Weaver has been one of the top pitchers in baseball over the last three seasons. Since 2009, when he went 16-8 with a 3.75 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP, he’s been on people’s radars as a pretty good pitcher, and he’s only gotten better since then. In 2010, Weaver won 13 games and lowered his ERA to 3.01 and his WHIP down to 1.07 while striking out a career high 233 batters and his arrival as an elite ace was official. He followed that breakout campaign with an 18-win 2011, reaching career lows in ERA (2.41) and WHIP (1.01) while striking out 198 and finishing second in the AL Cy Young Race to Justin Verlander. His dominance just continues to grow.
This season, he’s continued the trend and solidified himself as the best pitcher on this staff and one of the best in all of baseball. He opened the season with a 8.0 inning, 10-strikeout, shutout performance against Kansas City and became just the third Angels pitcher to open a season with 10 K’s while giving up no runs. Weaver has followed up that performance with strong performance after strong performance, and looked poised to make another strong push for a Cy Young candidacy. Then came last night’s start against Minnesota, where Weaver took the whole race over for himself.
It looked like just another strong performance from Weaver, where he kept the Twins off balance with pinpoint command and dominating from the get-go. Then the game went on, and the Twins still couldn’t get a hit. In fact, the only base-runner the Twins got on through the first seven innings came on a passed ball third strike to Chris Parmelee that got past Chris Iannetta. The stadium could feel it coming, even after Josh Willingham drew a two-out walk on a contested check swing call. They held their breath as an eighth inning drive by Trevor Plouffe hooked just foul down the left field line. But that was the all the closer the Twins got. Weaver could not be stopped.
When the final out was recorded by Torii Hunter on the warning track in right, Weaver allowed himself to get swept up in the moment. He put his hands on his head and broke out in a giant smile as his teammates rushed around him to celebrate. Then it was time to hug his wife, his dad, and his mom as they came down onto the field to share in the post-gem celebration, and Weaver struggled to capture the moment in words:
“I’m at a loss for words right now. It hasn’t kicked in yet,” he said. “Thank you for all your support. Couldn’t have done it without the defense. The guys were picking me up left and right.
“I was locked in for the most part,” he said. “My mom, dad, wife, this was awesome.”
This marks the first no-hitter for Weaver in his career, who struck out nine Twins on the night, and the 10th in Angels’ history. It’s the second Halos no-no in a year, as Ervin Santana pitched one July 27 last season at Cleveland (that sure feels like a long time ago now), and the second in MLB in the last two weeks as Phil Humber no hit Seattle April 21 for the Chicago White Sox. The 29-year old Weaver is hitting his prime this season, as he leads the AL in strikeouts (45) and ERA (1.61) and is second in WHIP (0.78). He’s been the most consistent presence for the Angels throughout a rocky start to 2012, and could now be the catalyst for turning things around.
The win caps a three-game sweep of Minnesota and follows up a three-hit shutout performance by Jerome Williams, marking the first time that the Angels had back-to-back complete game wins since 1993. Add that to Dan Haren‘s continued improvement from a slow start and C.J. Wilson giving the Halos a strong start every time he’s on the hill, the pressure for the offense to score a ton of runs may be lifted a bit. That helped them explode for nine runs on 15 hits last night with home runs from Kendrys Morales and Howie Kendrick to give Angels fans a taste of what this offense was supposed to be like. This game could be the spark that this team was looking for and be the turning point towards getting this season headed in the right direction. But for the moment, it’s all about Jered Weaver and his place among the elite pitchers in baseball.