ARLINGTON -- In a year that has already seen him throw his first no-hitter and reach 100 career victories, Jered Weaver reached another first on a muggy Friday night at Rangers Ballpark. By pitching seven innings of two-run ball against the mighty Rangers, on a night when his stuff wasn't crisp, and in a venue that has always given him fits, Weaver reached 20 victories for the first time in his sparkling seven-year career.
Now the question is whether he can capture yet another first: the American League Cy Young Award.
"I'm not even talking about that, man," Weaver said after the 7-4 win in Texas. "I've told you guys that personal accomplishments are great, but they don't mean really too much to me. I want a World Series. That's why I stayed here."
That goal remains alive. On life support, yes, but still breathing because Weaver has delivered practically every time his team needed it and because the Angels, winners of six of their last seven and owners the best record in the AL since Aug. 21, just won't let their season die.
In the opener of a make-or-break series against their bitter division rivals, the Angels got a gritty effort from Weaver, a leadoff homer from Mike Trout and the best baseball Mark Trumbo has played since mid-July, but all it got them was the status quo. With the A's beating the Mariners, they remained two games ahead of the Angels for the second AL Wild Card spot.
And another page has been torn off the calendar.
Only five regular-season games now remain.
"Hopefully we're going to get help," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "All we want to do is get one toe in that door, and I think we're going to have a good chance."
Weaver came in 3-7 with a 5.05 ERA in 15 career starts at Rangers Ballpark, but gave up only a sacrifice fly and a homer by Nelson Cruz to move to 20-4 with a 2.73 ERA on the season.
Weaver's .833 winning percentage is the highest in club history -- though he's also slated to start Wednesday's regular-season finale -- and he's the seventh Angels pitcher ever to reach 20 wins. The last one to do it was Bartolo Colon in 2005, the year he won the AL Cy Young Award.
By leading the AL in wins, and trailing only the Rays' David Price and the Tigers' Justin Verlander in ERA, Weaver has a chance to follow in Colon's footsteps in another way.
"He's pitched the way you would expect an ace to pitch and he's having the type year that a Cy Young winner has," Scioscia said. "And hopefully he'll be rewarded, and our team will with the team goal [of reaching the playoffs]. When you talk to Weave, there's no doubt, first and foremost in his mind is us reaching our first goal. I think that's what he's happy to contribute. And it's a big win tonight. Secondly, I know that it's an honor he deserves."
The Angels gave Weaver a lead on Trout's fifth leadoff homer, which came off Rangers starter Ryan Dempster and landed in the center-field lawn, giving him 29 homers on the year and a team-record 125 runs. Chris Iannetta added another solo homer in the third.
Then Trumbo, struggling mightily since mid-July, stole the show.
He hit an RBI double off the center-field wall in the fourth and an RBI double to right-center field in the sixth, giving the Angels a 4-1 lead. Then, he capped a game-breaking, three-run seventh with an RBI single.
It was his first multihit game this month, his first three-hit game since July 15 and his first game with two extra-base hits since July 17, which kick-started a 57-game stretch that saw Trumbo post a .192/.243/.280 slash line heading into Friday, dropping him from fourth all the way to eighth in the lineup.
"Tonight is the best he's attacked the ball in two months," Scioscia assessed, "and hopefully he'll find that comfort zone and stay productive."
Weaver, meanwhile, was fighting himself. Asked if he threw more changeups, the tall right-hander grinned and said, "Some of those were fastballs, you know." He only had enough in him to strike out five hitters, but somehow he scattered just five hits and walked two to notch his 21st quality start in 29 tries.
By the time he finished the seventh with 99 pitches, though, Scioscia figured that was enough.
"We were hitting him all night, we just had some bad luck," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We felt good about facing Weaver. We hit some balls hard off him but didn't have any luck."
And the Angels played what was probably their best all-around defensive game of the year.
With runners on first and second and two outs in the second, Trumbo raced to the wall to snag a hard-hit line drive by Mike Napoli. In the third, third baseman Alberto Callaspo lunged into the stands to catch a foul pop off the bat of Ian Kinsler. In the fourth, Torii Hunter temporarily saved a run with a sharp throw home, which allowed Iannetta to gun down Adrian Beltre trying to take second base. And with the Rangers threatening in the eighth, cutting the deficit to three on a two-run homer by Beltre, Hunter ended the inning by retrieving a ball in the corner off Cruz and gunning him down with a perfect throw to second.
That prompted Scioscia to tout another one of his players for an award.
"Torii Hunter," he said, "if he doesn't win the Gold Glove in right field, something's really off."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.