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TEX@LAA: Weaver works seven strong to earn 12th win

ANAHEIM -- Jered Weaver battled through five draining innings against the lethal Rangers on Friday night, barely getting out of a couple of tough jams and exhausting more than 90 pitches in the process.

Then, as Weaver took his seat in the Angel Stadium dugout before the top of the sixth, he turned to his catcher, Bobby Wilson, and calmly said: "I've got two more, no matter what."

Wilson, of course, believed him.

"If he says he's going to do something, we know he's going to do it," Wilson said. "Even if he falls a little short, he's going to give it his best effort. And guys play harder when he's on the mound because he's just so intense, and everyone knows that he wants to win worse than anybody here, and everybody feeds off it."

Weaver not only delivered on his promise. He delivered seven innings of one-run ball and, with an electrifying sellout crowd behind him, helped deliver a 6-1 victory over the Rangers, the bitter American League West rivals the Angels will face 12 more times in the second half.

"We needed a big game from our starter," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "and Weave gave it to us."

Weaver was almost unrecognizable when he last faced the Rangers on May 13, tying a career high with eight earned runs, lasting only 3 1/3 innings and leaving the field in a fit of rage.

But that was in Texas, a place where he's 2-7 with a 5.21 ERA in his career. On Friday night, he was back at his happy place. The place where he's now 8-0 with a 2.16 ERA in 13 career starts against these Rangers, and 7-0 with a Major League-best 0.68 ERA overall on the year.

It took 116 pitches, and sheer will in the final two frames, but Weaver picked up his first win over the Rangers since July 21 of last year, putting the Angels five games back in the division.

"Going up against your division rival, you want to pick up some games against them," Weaver said, after moving to 12-1 with a 2.20 ERA on the year. "No better way to do it than to face them."

The Angels need these games. They're coming off a 2-5 road trip against the Yankees and Tigers, and have found it awfully difficult to gain any sort of ground on the Rangers, no matter how well they play.

They went 17-9 in June and lost a game in the standings, had posted the second-best record in the Majors since April 28 and were able to shave only three off the nine-game deficit that at one point seemed insurmountable.

Now they have their chance. And in the opener, they thrived.

Against Derek Holland, owner of a 1.98 ERA in two starts since coming off the disabled list, the Angels scored six runs on nine hits before chasing the lefty after 6 2/3 innings.

Albert Pujols went 3-for-4, putting his batting average at .281 -- the highest it's been since April 19. Howie Kendrick drove in the first two runs. Erick Aybar had a big two-run double in a three-run fourth inning that proved to be the difference. And, naturally, Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout came through, hitting solo homers to put the finishing touches on an all-around offensive effort.

Trumbo has a team-leading 27 homers on the year and leads the Majors with eight homers in July.

Right behind him is Trout, with seven this month (and 15 since his late-April callup).

"Every game in this last stretch is going to be big," said Trout, who has scored a run in 12 consecutive games, one shy of the franchise record. "We just have to go out there and take it one game at a time. We can't look ahead."

It was Weaver who set the tone, despite giving up six hits, walking four and being uncharacteristically inefficient.

And it was a key double-play ball that helped him do it.

With the score tied at 1, runners on second and third and one out in the third, Weaver walked Elvis Andrus -- who hit his first homer in 83 games in the first inning -- to bring up the struggling-yet-dangerous Josh Hamilton with the bases loaded.

Weaver fell behind 2-0, but repeatedly pounded Hamilton with fastballs until he got him to ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play. Wilson called it "the turning point of the game."

"I was looking for a heater and I got a heater," Hamilton said. "I jammed myself and hit into a double play, which doesn't happen very often."

Weaver threw 20-plus pitches in the first, third and fifth, putting his count at 91 through those first five frames. His first pitch to Nelson Cruz, with two outs in the sixth, put his pitch count at triple digits. And when he came out of that frame, he was at 105.

But Scioscia, mindful of bullpen that had posted a 7.62 ERA over its last seven games, ran Weaver back out for the seventh.

"He still felt good," Scioscia said. "The ball was coming out of his hand really nicely; I thought his command was picking up. [Pitching coach] Mike Butcher felt really good with him and where he was with his delivery."

Weaver would breeze through the bottom of the order in the seventh, getting the Angels to a point in the game they were more than comfortable with.

He had delivered as promised.

Just like aces tend to do.

"That's what an ace brings to the table every time he gets on the mound," Wilson said. "It's that competitive edge of, 'No matter what happens, I'm going to give everything I've got and I'm going to compete, and I'm going to make the pitches and come up clutch with some important pitches when we need it to the most.' "

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