If the Los Angeles Angels aren't going to be led out of this slump by the offense, their pitching staff could sure use a shot in the arm
They're hoping Jered Weaver can provide that in his first start in seven weeks Sunday against the visiting Baltimore Orioles.
Los Angeles (58-51) has averaged 3.5 runs during a 4-11 stretch - to go from leading the AL West by two games to 1 1/2 games back of first-place Houston - batting .191 in the last nine. Saturday's 5-0 loss marked the fourth time the Angels have been shut out in the last 15. They were blanked five times in their previous 94 contests.
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The starting rotation has also been lackluster with a 4.67 ERA over the last 15, almost a full run higher than its season mark.
Weaver (4-8, 4.75 ERA) hasn't thrown since June 20 because of an inflamed left hip. He made two rehab starts with Class-A Inland Empire, allowing two earned runs over 9 1-3 innings.
"If it means he's good from now until the end of the year, then it was well worth the price you had to pay to miss him," manager Mike Scioscia told MLB's official website. "I don't necessarily think that the fact that a guy misses three or four weeks is going to translate to him staying fresher, but he's at a level now that he needs to be, and we need to maintain that."
Given the way Weaver has struggled this year, it's unclear exactly how much of a boost he can provide. His ERA is the highest of his career, and in 15 starts, he's four shy of his career high for losses set over 34 outings in 2010. He almost certainly won't meet the 11-win plateau he reached each of his first nine seasons.
Weaver lost each of his last four starts before being sidelined, tying the longest slump of his career Aug. 17-Sept. 4, 2010. He's only been backed by four runs of support in that span, though he also owns a 6.58 ERA while giving up six homers.
Facing the Orioles could help Weaver get back on track if his history against them holds true. He's 6-2 with a 2.83 ERA in his last nine meetings and held Baltimore to a solo shot by J.J. Hardy and two other hits over 7 1-3 innings in a 3-1 road victory May 15.
Chris Davis, who owns a 1.181 OPS with 26 RBIs over his last 19 games, is batting .189 with eight strikeouts in 37 at-bats against the right-hander.
Baltimore (56-53) has won 10 of 14 to pull within two games of the Angels for the second wild-card spot and Manny Machado and Caleb Joseph went deep Saturday, the eighth time in 11 games the Orioles have homered twice. Machado is hitting .412 over his last eight games.
Miguel Gonzalez (9-8, 4.32), trying to avoid losing a third straight start for the first time in his career, has seen his season go south with a 4-4 record and 6.05 ERA over his last eight outings. Opponents own a .383 on-base percentage in that span compared to .290 previously.
He allowed three runs, five hits and three walks and needed 94 pitches to get through 5 1-3 innings in a 5-0 loss at Oakland on Tuesday.
"I have to stay aggressive and try and throw strikes as quick as possible so my defense can be on its toes," he said.
The right-hander has completed at least seven innings in three of his four previous matchups with the Angels, going 3-1 with a 2.20 ERA.