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LAA@BAL: Aybar perfect at the plate, goes yard twice

BALTIMORE -- This could not have been more different from Texas and the scorching heat index on that dry, sticky Sunday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. It was more than 30 degrees cooler and the opposing lineup belonged to a last-place opponent.

But that doesn't shrink the importance of Jered Weaver's performance on three days rest in the Angels' 11-2 victory Sunday afternoon. The Angels have their backs against the wall in the American League playoff picture and needed their ace to pitch big to avoid a three-game sweep by the lowly Orioles.

"That's what [manager Mike] Scioscia wanted was to get a pretty good lead so he didn't have to push me that hard," Weaver said.

The win kept the Angels 4 1/2 games behind the Rangers in the division after Texas won in Seattle. The Angels trail the Red Sox by four games in the AL Wild Card race.

It was just the second time Weaver pitched on three days' rest. The first came Aug. 28 of this year at Texas, where he coughed up two leads and unraveled in the seventh, allowing the first three batters to reach base after four pitches. The Rangers tagged him for seven earned runs, and he issued four walks, which tied a season high.

It was also 103 degrees at first pitch, a far cry from the 70 degrees Sunday at Camden Yards. Weaver has never liked pitching in the soupy conditions like that day in Texas.

This wasn't that day.

Not weather-wise nor performance-wise. Weaver allowed just two earned runs on six hits over six innings, with two strikeouts and one walk on 97 pitches.

"It was impressive for him to pitch that well with that amount of rest," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It's not so much the rest as it is pitchers being creatures of habit, and you kind of take them out of that schedule sometimes. He's a warrior."

Weaver was backed by three home runs, including two from shortstop Erick Aybar, the latter of which capped a four-run fourth. It was Aybar's first multi-home run game of his six-year career. His five runs tied the franchise record set by Tim Salmon on April 12, 1998 at Cleveland.

Vernon Wells hit his 22nd homer, a two-run shot in the fourth inning off Orioles starter Alfredo Simon. Aybar entered the game with 22 career home runs but picked a good day to spark a team which needs wins to stay in the playoff chase.

"[It was] a very important win," Aybar said through translator Diego Lopez, the senior video coordinator. "I felt great being able to contribute because it was really a team effort. Eleven runs, it wasn't all my runs."

A scary moment occurred with two out in the sixth, when catcher Jeff Mathis was hit in the head by Orioles reliever Brad Bergesen. As Mathis collapsed to the ground, Bergesen couldn't watch, bending over and cupping his hand around the back of his head.

Home plate umpire Laz Diaz had issued a warning to both benches in the first inning after Simon hit first baseman Mark Trumbo in the back with a pitch. Simon threw high and inside on the previous batter, Torii Hunter, as well.

This came one day after Angels starter Ervin Santana hit Baltimore first baseman Mark Reynolds in the head during the third inning of Saturday night's game. Reynolds, who had hit a three-run home run to cap a five-run first inning, said Santana intentionally threw at him.

Bergesen, clearly remorseful of what happened, was not ejected.

"I really don't think he was trying to [hit Mathis], to be honest with you," Scioscia said. "When a guy gets hit in the head usually there's action taken from an umpire after warning, and Laz Diaz said he didn't think there was intent."

It was Scioscia's intention to pitch Weaver on three days rest to ensure a maximum of three more starts before the end of the season, the last of which would come in the regular season finale against the Rangers.

If the Angels stay in the playoff race, it could mean Weaver pitching at home on the last day of the season with the division title at stake and a chance for 20 wins.

It would be a dream finish. But there is much still to play out as this team heads north to Toronto. Comments