On a sports day that saw four New Orleans players suspended for their involvement in “Bountygate,” a three-overtime thriller in the NHL playoffs and the tragic death of an NFL legend, the spotlight shifted away from Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols’ power outage at the plate.
Angels ace Jered Weaver did his part to put Pujols’ struggles even further on the back-burner with a rare pitching performance that ended long after most of the country had gone to bed.
But Weaver’s gem was a masterpiece nonetheless.
Less than two weeks after Phil Humber tossed the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history, Weaver was a walk and a passed ball away from repeating the feat. Instead, he settled for no-hitter in a 9-0 rout of the Minnesota Twins.
And if there’s such a thing as a sure-thing no-hit bid, this one looked like it from the start as Weaver rolled through a struggling Twins’ lineup to record the 10th no-hitter in team history, and the second in less than a year.
“It was an easy ride,” Weaver said.
He needed 127 pitches — 77 of them strikes — to retire 28 hitters (the passed ball came on a third strike), nine of which came by strikeout.
“I probably started thinking about it in the third,” Weaver said after a lengthy on-field celebration. “It’s tough not to think about it when you see some goose eggs up there. But in a professional ballgame, you never know what’s going to happen. A bloop hit or anything else could happen. A lot of things have got to go your way, and that happened tonight. It still hasn’t kicked in. It’s pretty awesome.”
A California native who played at Long Beach State, Weaver had his parents and wife in the stands as former Twins outfielder Torii Hunter tracked down Alexi Casilla’s deep flyball to the right field warning track to seal it.
With the win, the Angels completed a three-game sweep of the Twins capped by consecutive complete game victories — Jerome Williams went the distance in a three-hit shutout on Tuesday.
And while the upgraded Los Angeles offense that includes the $250 million bat of Pujols continues to flounder, this appears to be the only way the Angels can win right now.
The Angels rank 11th in the American League with 3.7 runs scored per game and are 10th in home runs. Pujols has yet to clear the outfield fence on the fly as the longest home run drought in his career now spans 29 games dating back to the World Series.
Los Angeles shelled out to get a player with three-time MVP awards and a lifetime .328 average. So far, their return investment has produced a .208 hitter with fewer home runs than former Angels infielder Chone Figgins (2).
But Pujols will turn things around soon enough (he has to, right?). Until then, look for Weaver (4-0) to keep dealing.
He gets the Twins again on the road in his next start.