The Angels extended their winning streak to four games on Saturday thanks to a stellar debut from rookie pitcher Jered Weaver. But the O's snapped the Halo's longest winning streak of the season on Sunday after hitting bloopers, seeing-eye-singles and an assortment of other cliches for lucky hits. Mike Scioscia credited the O's for bunching together hits and battling but it was hard for a fan to take. The Angels were clearly the better team (in my humble opinion) with laser shots that included a double from Tim Salmon and triple from Erick Aybar. But the Orioles did just enough to win and that is part of the beauty of baseball.
Back on Friday though, the Angels were welcoming Jered Weaver to the big league family. A pitching staff that has been weakened by both injury and ineffectiveness thus far in 2006 suddenly looked a lot stouter with the addition of the tall right-hander with flowing locks. The man who was known as "Dream Weaver" during his run at Long Beach State achieved his dream of pitching and winning in the big leagues as his big brother looked on from the dugout. Weaver could not have had a better opportunity for a debut against a slumping opposing pitcher in Erik Bedard and at home for his team which had won three in a row. The always questionable Angel offense showed up in spades, giving Weaver a four-run margin by the end of the second inning. That was more than enough as Weaver threw seven strong innings allowing just three hits, one walk and no runs while striking out five. Bedard lasted just 3.2 innings while giving up six runs on ten hits. Three Angels went yard including Kendry Morales, Tim Salmon and Tommy Murphy with his first big-league blast.
It was a complete game from the sense that the Angels had a dominating pitching performance, the only blemish being one run given up by Kevin Gregg in the ninth. Morales quick assimilation to the majors could prove to be a bigger boost to the Angels prospects than Weaver who only starts every fifth day. After Sunday's game Morales is hitting .409 with 2 HR's and 6 RBI in just 22 at-bats. Morales' slugging percentage is a gaudy .727 and while his big offensive numbers will come down as pitcher's make their adjustments, Morales is proving that he is already a polished player who is making a claim at a big league roster spot for many years to come.
Another pleasant offensive surprise has been Tim Salmon who is making his swan song season one to remember. Salmon has already tripled his HR total from 2004 when he managed just 2 over 60 games. In 34 games so far this year the Big Fish is hitting .288 with 6 HR and 17 RBI.
The Angels easily won the series from the Orioles but they will face a slightly tougher test in the form of the Minnesota Twins, winners of three straight. Tonight's game features a struggling Brad Radke (7.44 ERA, 4-6) against John Lackey (3.50 ERA, 3-3). The notoriously slow-starting Lackey has pitched better than in previous years but with ace Bartolo Colon out and Kelvim Escobar spotty, the Angels need Lackey to pitch like it's August right now. The Halo's have suffered through one of the worst May's in club history but can end on a strong note by dispatching the Twins. If the Halo's can take 2 of 3 to win the series they would finish the month 11-17. That would be a moral victory for a club whose record stood at 5-15 on May 22nd.
Looking ahead to June the Angels stand a good chance to put together a winning month with series against the Devil Rays, Mariners, Royals and Rockies. Interleague play resumes with the Angels visiting San Francisco and Phoenix. Last year 12 games against the NL West was a sweet respite against a tough summer of games. This year, with the NL West featuring all five teams with records over .500, it could bring more pain than pleasure for the Angels and the rest of the AL West where just one team (Texas) stands over the break-even mark.