Athletics-Angels preview

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Kendall Graveman will start for the Oakland Athletics against the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday in the midst of what could be considered a breakout season.

With Monday's trade of Rich Hill to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Graveman became Oakland's leader in wins. And while his win total of seven is less than the leaders of just about every other major league club, he has put them up recently in rather quick fashion.

Until losing his last start on July 29 against Cleveland, the 6-foot-2 right-hander had won six consecutive decisions over 10 starts. From June 12 to July 23, the Athletics went 8-0 when Graveman started. Overall, Oakland is 10-10 in games Graveman has started, not bad when considering the club is 37-49 in games he did not start.

"Kendall shows when he gets on a roll, he can pitch really well," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Graveman, who was a key part of the trade that sent Josh Donaldson to Toronto.

A breakthrough for Graveman this season is the improvement of his sinker. His ability to locate the pitch opens up his options when he falls behind in the count.

"It's a thing you can throw on a 2-1, 3-1 count and still get outs, you don't have to go off-speed all the time," Graveman said of his sinker. "Just locating in the bottom of the zone."

Melvin has noticed.

"I think he found out he can throw his sinker in the zone," Melvin told the San Francisco Chronicle. "As long as it's down, he's going to get a lot of ground balls."

Jered Weaver will start for the Angels, as he continues what could be his final season with the Angels. Weaver is not that old, he'll be 34 on Oct. 2 but he is far from the pitcher he used to be.

He has managed to win as many games as he's lost (eight) but his ERA of 5.14 is by far the worst of his career and reflects his inconsistency. He's being paid $20 million this season, the final year of his contract.

If the Angels decide to bring him back, it would be at a dramatically reduced cost and Weaver wouldn't necessarily be guaranteed a spot in the starting rotation next season.

Weaver, though, has found an ability to come up big at times this season, and his best game of the season came on June 19in Oakland, when he shut out the A's on three hits, his eighth career shutout.

He has had success against the A's throughout his career, going 14-11 with a 2.73 ERA. He has wins against only one other team -- 16 against Texas.

Despite the occasional rough starts this year, Weaver is confident things are getting better. He said recently he feels like the stiffness in his neck, shoulder and upper back is loosening, and as a result his fastball velocity and command are getting better.

"Each and every outing gets better," Weaver told the Orange County Register. "The tightness is starting to diminish. It's been quite a process. A little bit longer than I anticipated, but every start gets better."