© 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
LOS ANGELES -- They might have been beaten up, but the Angels were far from beaten.
Using stout pitching, superb defense, timely hitting and depth that is becoming their hallmark, the Angels subdued the Dodgers, 3-0, in front of 56,000 on Saturday at Dodger Stadium.
Jered Weaver (6-3) collected his first Major League hit and pitched 5 1/3 innings through baseball-style land mines for the win, with Jason Schmidt (1-4) absorbing the loss. Francisco Rodriguez picked up his 22nd save by striking out the side in the ninth after another stellar setup job by Scot Shields, whose 18th hold leads the Majors.
That was the heavenly part for the Angels. Here's the other part: Garret Anderson returned to the 15-day disabled list after aggravating his right hip flexor tendon running down a fly ball, and first baseman Casey Kotchman sustained a concussion when he was drilled on the helmet on a pickoff play at second base, spending the rest of the afternoon at a nearby hospital for testing and observation.
Luckily for the Angels, Vladimir Guerrero avoided serious injury when a fifth-inning Schmidt pitch struck an area of his right forearm that was able to absorb the brunt of the blow. This enabled Vlad to stay in the game and score the first of two runs driven home with a single by Reggie Willits, who'd replaced Anderson.
"We're going to move on -- just like we did today during the game," said the durable Shields, who followed Darren Oliver (two outs of relief behind Weaver) and worked two scoreless innings in front of Rodriguez. "Guys came in and did what they had to do to win."
As Weaver was walking a tightrope, repeatedly quelling disturbances with the right pitch for the moment, the Angels finally got to Schmidt in the fifth after letting opportunities get away in the third (leaving the bases loaded) and fourth (two stranded).
With two outs, Guerrero, second in the Majors only to the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez in RBIs, was hit by Schmidt, and Matthews singled him to third. Kotchman walked, loading the bases.
Willits, a second-inning replacement for Anderson, stroked a two-strike single to right, scoring Guerrero and Matthews.
It was the brand of clutch hitting that Willits has consistently delivered, hitting .412 in late-and-close pressure situations this season.
"The pitch was a changeup," Willits said. "He had thrown me fastballs, and I was ready for a fastball. I was out front a little bit, and I kind of wrested it out there [to right-center]."
Rudy Seanez replaced Schmidt. With Willits running, Rafael Furcal darted over to second. Howie Kendrick shot a ball right through the spot vacated by the ultraswift shortstop, Kotchman scoring on the single.
This is Angels baseball, execution style, and it gave the red-clad fans amid all the blue reason to cut loose.
A three-run lead with Shields and Rodriguez rested felt like money to Willits.
"Any time we get a lead with our bullpen," Reggie said, "you have to like your chances."
Using a double-switch associated with National League ball -- a game not exactly foreign to former Dodgers star Mike Scioscia -- the Angels manager inserted Erick Aybar at second base when he summoned Shields to replace Oliver. Andre Ethier had singled leading off.
Shields struck out Matt Kemp on high heat and retired Furcal on a fly ball to center. Pierre then grounded toward the hole, where Quinlan, replacing Kotchman, deflected it.
In a blur, there was Aybar, gloving the ball and throwing toward the bag. Shields got there with a burst, dragging a foot across the bag to finish a brilliant inning-ending play.
"He's a great defender," Shields said of Aybar. "I told myself, 'You've got to get to the bag.' I got there, and I'm glad Pierre didn't run into me."
"Playing a club like the Dodgers," Scioscia said, "you have to finish off an inning. An example of that was the fifth, when they couldn't get the third out.
"That was a nice play on all parts -- 'Q' got a piece of it, Erick didn't give up on the play, and Shields made a nice play tagging the bag."
Pitching for the first time in the ballpark he ran around in as an L.A.-area kid, Weaver left the bases loaded in the second after a leadoff double by Luis Gonzalez. For the third out, Weaver retired Schmidt on a grounder deflected by third baseman Chone Figgins to shortstop Orlando Cabrera.
Weaver also worked out of a two-on jam in the fourth when Gary Matthews Jr. ran down Ethier's two-out drive at the wall in right-center.
Weaver had one last escape in the fifth. With two on and two out, Gonzalez looked at a third strike on a changeup after narrowly missing the right-field chalk on what would have been an extra-base hit.
Weaver, whose single in his first at-bat against Schmidt was his first Major League hit, held the Dodgers scoreless while surrendering four hits and four walks, striking out three.
"Mom'll get the ball, Dad'll get the bat," Weaver said of the mementos of the occasion.
Weaver worked through butterflies and crises to get the win, getting himself a little dirty in the process with a hard slide breaking up a double play after his single.
"I just kinda jammed my shoulder a little -- nothing serious," Weaver said.
"He did go in hard," a relieved Scioscia said. "Too hard for my comfort level."