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LAD@LAA: Weaver returns, hurls six great frames

Cubs manager Dale Sveum understands the challenge of traveling to play teams out West, especially when it's a short trip like his team's two-game excursion to play the Angels in Anaheim.

"We know the history of the West Coast is no fun," Sveum said. "It's hard to win out there. You play .500 on the West Coast, you've done a pretty good job. In our case, we're going out there a couple different times and this one is only for two days. You're putting a lot of miles on, but the day off I think can only help."

Chicago's off-days on Monday and Thursday are sandwiched around two games against tough Angels starters. The Cubs will face Jered Weaver on Tuesday in his second start since returning from a fractured left elbow, then will face the consistent Jason Vargas on Wednesday.

Weaver looked like his old self in his first outing since returning from the disabled list last Wednesday, allowing one run on five hits over six innings. He'll face a Cubs lineup that has hit 13 home runs in its last seven games.

"I was just worried about getting the first out," Weaver said. "That was the most nerve-wracking part. When you haven't been out there for a while, you ask yourself, 'Can I still do this?' As soon as you get that first out, you kind of get the confidence back and try to get in a groove from there, and I was able to do that."

This is a rare matchup between the teams. The Cubs haven't been to Angel Stadium since 2004. Weaver dominated the Cubs in his only career start against them, holding the Cubs to two hits in seven shutout innings on June 19, 2010, at Wrigley Field. But this is quite a different Cubs team since president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer started tinkering a year ago.

Anaheim hasn't been the run-producing machine that many expected with Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo, Josh Hamilton and Mike Trout in its lineup, but Sveum understands the challenge the Angels' lineup can present when his right-handed starter Scott Feldman takes the mound on Tuesday.

"We know they're capable of being a prolific offense," Sveum said. "They have guys with some track records of some powerful stuff. You can throttle them a little and do some things, but you know they're going to do their thing. They have some guys with special ability with the bat."

Feldman has been a pleasant surprise for the Cubs this season. His 2.82 ERA is second on the pitching staff to Travis Wood, and against the Angels he'll be vying for his team-leading sixth win. In his last outing against the White Sox last Wednesday, Feldman rebounded from a tough start in Cincinnati to hold the White Sox to just two runs in six innings.

The right-hander will try to get the Cubs back on the right track after dropping the final two games of their home series against Arizona.

Feldman is no stranger to the West. He pitched in the American League West for eight seasons with the Rangers before joining the Cubs this season.

Cubs: Bullpen has rare struggle
Entering Tuesday's series opener, Cubs starters tote a 3.64 ERA and hold opponents to a .231 batting average.

Their bullpen wasn't as pleasant to watch on Saturday. In a 12-4 loss, Chicago relievers allowed nine runs in 2 2/3 innings after it had produced a 1.08 ERA in its previous nine games. They followed that performance by allowing a run over 3 1/3 innings on Sunday.

The nine runs were the most the Cubs bullpen had allowed since it gave up 10 to the Brewers on April 27, 2012.

But after the Cubs dealt with instability with their closer situation to start the season, they have seemingly found their man. Kevin Gregg signed a Minor League contract with the team on April 15, and allowed his first earned run of the season on Thursday against the White Sox. He's 6-for-6 on save opportunities this season.

Angels: Decision looming on Williams
Angels manager Mike Scioscia has a decision to make after Thursday's off-day. With the return of Weaver to the rotation, he has to cut his rotation from six starters to five. Jerome Williams isn't making the decision easy.

The right-hander started the season as a reliever, but has posted a 3.08 ERA in his last six starts. Angels starters Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton could also be candidates for the 'pen. Hanson allowed five runs in 6 1/3 innings on Friday after four weeks on the restricted list. Blanton is 1-9 with a 5.53 ERA, though he limited the Astros to two runs on three hits and tallied 11 strikeouts in eight innings on Monday, but took the loss.

Worth noting
• Anthony Rizzo's 29 extra-base hits are second in the National League behind Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez (30). Rizzo is 9-for-30 (.300) with seven runs, five doubles, two triples and five RBIs in his last six games.

• Cubs pitchers drove in a National League-record 19 runs in May. It's the most since Detroit's staff drove in 20 runs in August 1940.

• The Angels are 19-10 when Trout scores a run. Comments