OAKLAND -- It's safe to say Angels lefty Nick Maronde will never forget his 23rd birthday.
With Scott Downs deemed unavailable after pitching in back-to-back games, Maronde found himself pitching in a critical spot during his second Major League appearance on Wednesday, with runners on the corners, one out and the Angels clinging to a two-run lead in the bottom of the seventh.
The result: Strikeout, strikeout, strikeout.
Maronde turned around the switch-hitting Coco Crisp and struck him out swinging on a 92-mph fastball, then struck out the left-handed-hitting Seth Smith swinging on an 83-mph slider to end the threat, then started the eighth with a strikeout of the lefty slugger Josh Reddick on a 91-mph fastball.
If you're scoring at home, that's four strikeouts against four batters to kick off Maronde's Major League career.
"It's been awesome," Maronde said after the Angels' sweep-clinching 7-1 win over the A's. "It's been a real nice five days."
"He was the MVP of the game, really," winning pitcher Dan Haren added. "He came in throwing a lot of fastballs and he threw those great sliders to Seth Smith. I remember being in a similar situation of his in 2004 [with the Cardinals], coming out of the bullpen in big situations and pitching in playoff games and stuff. They're very nerve-wracking, so it's definitely a testament to the guy's mental makeup that he can go out there and stay composed and throw strikes in a huge situation."
Maronde, who struck out Mariners outfielder Carlos Peguero in his Major League debut on Sunday, has been a starter since the Angels took him in the third round of the 2011 Draft. And in 2012, he jumped three levels in the Minors, combining to post a 2.26 ERA and a 4.74 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 20 games (18 starts).
But he was a closer and setup man during his final two years at the University of Florida.
And it seems like he hasn't really lost touch with that.
"I'm just going out there trying to throw strikes," Maronde said. "They don't really know me, I don't think there's a lot of film on me, so I have the upper hand there."
Weaver unlikely to pitch against Tigers
OAKLAND -- Jered Weaver flew back to Los Angeles on Wednesday morning to visit with Dr. Lewis Yocum, who will examine Weaver's sore right shoulder to determine his status moving forward.
Manager Mike Scioscia has yet to say anything definitive on Weaver, opting to wait for word from the team's medical department, but the Angels' ace hasn't thrown since taking a comebacker off his pitching shoulder on Sunday and is unlikely to pitch in the upcoming weekend series against the Tigers.
The question now seems to be how much more time Weaver will miss on top of that.
"Let's just wait. We're going to hold it," Scioscia said when asked directly about Weaver's scheduled start on Friday. "We have time to make this decision. We have a day off [on Thursday], which can help things, so we're going to just wait for some direction and we'll make a decision."
September was going to be a month when the Angels would lean heavily on Weaver, who's 16-4 with a 2.86 ERA and has been the one constant in a star-studded rotation that struggled mightily for almost two months. Weaver was going to start almost every fifth day in September, setting him up to make seven starts and line up for the regular-season finale.
But those plans may have changed in the fifth inning of Sunday's game in Seattle, when a line drive off the bat of Mariners second baseman Dustin Ackley caught the right-hander's right shoulder.
Weaver finished that frame, then exited with one out and two on in the sixth after 86 pitches. Afterward, he downplayed his shoulder injury, saying: "It feels all right. It kind of grazed, kind of hit it off my glove and then hit my arm. It didn't really get me square, as much as it looked like it did. It didn't really square me up too bad, so it didn't really affect anything."
But it turns out, it will at least alter the Angels' weekend rotation plans.
Now, in a series with major postseason ramifications, it will be right-hander Ervin Santana starting on Friday against Max Scherzer, C.J. Wilson starting on Saturday against Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke starting on Sunday against Anibal Sanchez. The Thursday off-day allows everyone to be on normal rest.
Kendrys holding up well in Pujols' stead
OAKLAND -- Wednesday marked the ninth straight game Albert Pujols started at designated hitter. Putting him there, and not at his natural position of first base, is a rather easy decision.
"The alternative is for Albert not to play," manager Mike Scioscia said, "so we're fine if he has to DH."
The most important thing for the Angels is to continue to get Pujols' bat in the lineup, a worthwhile venture considering the 13-game hitting streak during which he batted .377 with three homers and 10 RBIs heading into Wednesday's series finale against the A's. But he's as one-dimensional as ever these days, with a tender right calf that forced him to miss four games two weeks ago and continues to glaringly affect his running ability.
"As comfortable as he is in the batter's box, you can see, running, he's laboring," Scioscia said. "But he knows what his presence means in our lineup and he's going to play as much as he can."
Pujols hasn't taken grounders at first base very regularly and there's still no timetable for when he will return to the field.
Pujols' calf has translated into a return to first base for Kendrys Morales, who has started seven of the past nine games at his original position. Starting Morales, who missed almost two full seasons with a couple of ankle surgeries, is the only way the Angels can keep Pujols, Morales and Mark Trumbo in the same lineup.
So far, Morales seems to be holding up just fine.
"He has terrific hands, he's got nice actions around the base," Scioscia said. "Range-wise at first base, he's comparable to what most first basemen would have. Albert obviously has more range just for the experience and his athleticism, but Kendrys is playing fine at first base. For missing some time, it didn't take him long to get back in the saddle, and he feels OK."
• Erick Aybar's fourth-inning line drive on Wednesday hit A's starter Brandon McCarthy just above his right ear, immediately knocking him out of the game and noticeably shaking him up. Thankfully, McCarthy never lost consciousness. He was taken to a local hospital for precautionary reasons, but the A's announced shortly after the game that he was "conscious and doing well."
Aybar got McCarthy's phone number and was expecting to call him later.
"You feel really bad," the Angels shortstop said in Spanish. "He's a good guy. You never want to hit anybody over the head, and he's a good guy. Hopefully everything turns out all right and, God willing, that he gets better soon."
• Mark Trumbo got a mental day off on Tuesday and found himself batting in the No. 6 spot on Wednesday, marking the first time since May 5 that he's hit lower than fifth in the batting order. In the 7-1 win over the A's, he went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, giving him a .203 batting average and 65 strikeouts in 44 games since July 17.
• With a double in the third inning on Wednesday, Albert Pujols extended his hitting streak to 14 games and notched 40 doubles in a season for the seventh time. He's now five away from 500 for his career.
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.