Dream win caps Weaver's trying season
Righty finds redemption in St. Louis after rough start to '06
ST. LOUIS -- Right-handed pitcher Jeff Weaver fought through the bedlam of the Cardinals clubhouse and finally found his little brother, Jered, for a full-force hug. The emotion was genuine, but Jered mischievously poured a full bottle of beer down Jeff's back.Jeff had no intention of getting his little bro' back. Actually, they prefer uplifting one another over one-upmanship. That was the case when Jeff lost his job with the Angels in late June and the Angels gave it to Jered. It's still the case now that Jeff Weaver is a World Series champ. Jeff Weaver regained his confidence when the Cardinals acquired him in a trade. He found happiness -- but not, he insists, vindication -- on Friday night when he held the Tigers to four hits and struck out nine in eight innings as the Cards won, 4-2, to capture the World Series in five games. "All that's fine and dandy," Weaver, 30, said when asked if he scored one for all those who have been discarded. "But it's all the belief in yourself, knowing that you're going to work through it. "I've had struggles before and found it again. When you come to a team that believes in you from the get-go, it just builds your confidence." Friday was a far cry from June 27 in Anaheim, when Weaver gave up six runs and nine hits in a bitter loss to the Rockies that saw him booed off the field for the last time, with a 3-10 record and 6.29 ERA. The Angels designated him for assignment and traded him to the Cards for Minor League outfielder Terry Evans on July 5. Weaver, who lost Game 2 at Comerica Park, spent Friday forging his place in history for bringing home the Cards' 10th World Series title, not to mention turning Evans into a trivia answer. Weaver retired the first seven batters, four via the strikeout. He had a problem in the second, when he gave up a Brandon Inge double with one out. He forced opposing pitcher Justin Verlander into a bouncer to the mound, and threw to third to catch Inge in a rundown. The only runs came on Sean Casey's fourth-inning homer that followed Chris Duncan's error in right field. Weaver snatched the game in sixth. After Duncan twisted and turned on Casey's fly ball and turned the play into a double, Weaver vanquished Ivan Rodriguez on three pitches, including a dazzling slider that froze the Tigers star. "You've got to go out there and control things you can control," Weaver said. "And even the play before that fell in, I still threw the pitch to Casey where I wanted it. He was looking in and put a good swing on it. "But it's the fact of just staying calm, believing that you're going to get out of the situation and execute the pitches when the time comes." Cards pitching coach Dave Duncan, Chris' father, said Weaver went a long way in a short time while going from the guy that lost his confidence with the Angels to the guy that was so dominant on Friday. Weaver was 5-4 with a 5.18 ERA in 15 regular-season starts for the Cardinals. "Before this game, he was a whole lot like he was before any start, but there was a little bit different look of determination," Dave Duncan said. "It's a mindset.
"He had lost a lot of confidence and was kind of searching around for his game. He worked hard to get it back. I think today's game and the other games he's pitched in the postseason proved that he has gotten his game back."Before this postseason, Weaver lost his only World Series appearance, when he gave up a game-ending homer to the Marlins' Alex Gonzalez in Game 4 in 2003. He also was 0-2 with a 9.82 ERA in two postseason starts -- '03 with the Yankees and the other with the Dodgers in '04. Weaver finished this postseason 3-2 with a 2.43 ERA, which includes one reputation-solidifying performance. "That's a big-game performance right there," said closer Adam Wainwright, who earned the save despite a hit and a walk in the ninth inning. "You look up big-game pitchers in the dictionary, you're going to see a couple of our starters right there." It was a full-circle performance for Weaver in more ways than one. The Tigers drafted him in the first round in 1998, and Weaver went 39-51 -- finishing in the top 10 in the American League in losses three times -- before being traded to the Yankees in 2002. But those are different Tigers, and this is a different Weaver. No one on that side is feeling happy for him. However, Jered Weaver was ecstatic. Jered, 24, has been with Jeff throughout the postseason. He wore red gear with blue trim as always, but this time it was decorated with the Cards' logo. Jered made his way onto the field for the postgame celebration. "It feels like I won it along with him," said Jered, who went a sparkling 11-2 with a 2.56 ERA in 19 starts with the Angels. "We've been through so much this year. You can't script it any better than this. "Everybody was asking what it's going to be like at the dinner table at Thanksgiving. I think he's got all the bragging rights."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.