Los Angeles (53-49) at Boston (61-40)

Mostly Sunny Currently: Boston, MA, US
Temp: 63° F
  • Game info: 1:20 pm EDT Sat Jul 29, 2006
  • TV: FOX
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Jered Weaver has been very impressive for the Los Angeles Angels, but on Saturday he will face the toughest test of his young career.

Weaver looks to become the first rookie pitcher in 25 years to win his first eight major league starts when the Angels continue their weekend series with the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Weaver (7-0, 1.15 ERA) limited the Kansas City Royals to one run, three hits and a season-high four walks in 6 2-3 innings of Sunday’s 3-1 victory. The No. 12 overall pick in the 2004 draft became the first rookie to win his first seven major league starts since Fernando Valenzuela opened 8-0 for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981.

“We’re getting wins. That’s all I really care about,” said Weaver, whose 1.15 ERA is the lowest in major league history among pitchers with at least five career starts. “For my first seven, I’ve been able to do that. We’ve just got to keep it rolling, and hopefully we’ll get good defense like we’ve been having in my seven games.”

However, the 23-year-old right-hander has yet to face a lineup nearly as challenging as Boston’s. Six of his seven wins have come against opponents with losing records, including four victories over last-place clubs Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Seattle. The one team Weaver defeated with a winning record, the Oakland Athletics, owns the worst team batting average in the majors.

The Red Sox (61-40) saw their AL East lead slip to one-half game over the New York Yankees with Friday night’s series-opening 8-3 defeat, but they possess a formidable offensive club. Boston ranks in the top five in the major leagues in both runs scored and batting average, and designated hitter David Ortiz leads baseball with 34 homers and 95 RBIs.

Rookie pitchers have struggled versus the Red Sox this season, compiling a 4-8 record and 5.79 ERA against them.

While Weaver tries to remain unbeaten, Josh Beckett (13-5, 4.77) seeks to become baseball’s first 14-game winner as he takes the mound for Boston. The right-hander won his second straight start on Monday, giving up three runs in six innings of a 7-3 victory at Oakland. He became Boston’s quickest 13-game winner since Derek Lowe on July 17, 2002.

“I’m here to make every start and keep my team in the game,” said Beckett, who is tied for the major league wins lead despite having the highest ERA of his career and allowing 28 homers, also a career high. “I feel I’ve done that most of the time. I hit a few speed bumps.”

Beckett has never faced the Angels.

Boston’s top rookie starting pitcher, Jon Lester, suffered the first loss of his career Friday as the Angels (53-49) sent 11 batters to the plate in a six-run seventh inning. Garret Anderson went 3-for-4—two of his hits coming in the seventh—to extend his hitting streak against the Red Sox to 19 games.

Anderson is batting .378 (31-for-82) over the run, which dates to May 17, 2003.

Friday’s victory, coupled with Oakland’s 4-3 loss to Toronto, lifted Los Angeles into sole possession of the AL West lead for the first time since April 28, when the Angels were 12-11 and led both the A’s and Texas Rangers by one game. Los Angeles is a major league-best 18-5 in the month of July while scoring 6.3 runs per game.

“We struggled supporting a lot of our pitchers for the first two months,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “But I think the last month has been a little different story.”

With a win, the Angels can clinch their first series victory at Fenway Park since taking two of three from May 16-18, 2003.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Weaver LAA vs. J. Beckett LAD
11-2 Record 16-11
2.56 ERA 5.01
105 K 158
33 BB 74
1.03 WHIP 1.29