KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—Reaching .500 isn’t a mark an organization like the Los Angeles Angels often strives for.
After the start they had to the season, it’s a nice step that they hope will keep going in the right direction.
Jered Weaver(notes) outpitched Zack Greinke(notes) in seven scoreless innings and Torii Hunter(notes) homered for the second straight game, helping the Los Angeles Angels reach .500 for the first time in over a month with a 5-4 win over the Kansas City Royals on Thursday.
“It’s like your report card,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’ve been kind of swimming upstream for a while, working very, very hard. It’s certainly not where we want to end up—we think we’re a better team than .500— but we’re going to keep playing hard and that record will let you know how you’re doing like a report card.”
Weaver (5-2) did his part, pitching well for the fourth straight start and getting a win out of it, his first since May 7. The offense helped him for once, knocking around Greinke (1-7) and finishing with 12 hits—the big blow Hunter’s two-run homer in the fifth—after getting 14 the night before.
The bullpen, well, it had some issues.
The Royals scored two runs off Kevin Jepsen(notes) in the eighth inning and pinch-hitter Willie Bloomquist(notes) hit a two-run homer off Brian Fuentes(notes) in the ninth to cut the lead to 5-4. Fuentes managed to close it out after that, getting his seventh save in 10 chances.
Still, the combined effort gave the Angels (28-28) their seventh win in nine games, moving them to .500 for the first time since April 30.
For a team that started the season 3-7, it was a nice milestone, but one they want to get past.
“Our record, the standings, that’s not our challenge right now,” Scioscia said. “We need to keep this continuity and keep moving forward. We played well today and we held on.”
The marquee for this game billed two aces looking for a win.
Weaver opened the season 4-1, but hadn’t won in five previous starts despite allowing more than two earned runs once.
Bad as it’s been, Greinke’s probably envious.
A year after a Zack-tastical run to the AL Cy Young Award, the spotlight-avoiding right-hander has idled in traffic behind low run support.
It’s not that the Royals can’t hit; they entered Thursday’s game second in the majors at .277.
But for Greinke, they’ve been stinky.
Kansas City averages 2.87 runs per game behind him, third-fewest in the AL, and he’s allowed two earned runs or fewer seven times without a win, the hardest to take a 1-0 loss to Boston his previous start.
Greinke again didn’t get much help, but wasn’t particularly sharp, either.
Erick Aybar(notes) doubled on his first pitch—he was thrown out trying to stretch it to a triple—and Michael Ryan(notes) led off the second with another double, scoring on Kevin Frandsen’s(notes) run-scoring single.
Hunter made it 3-0 in the fifth with his homer into the fountains in left-center and another run scored in the sixth when catcher Jason Kendall(notes) failed to tag Reggie Willits(notes) at home after third baseman Alberto Callaspo(notes) stepped on the base and threw home with one out and the bases loaded.
Greinke allowed four runs on 10 hits in six innings after giving up seven in 3 1-3 his last home start.
“The last month I haven’t really been myself, I guess,” said Greinke, the first AL pitcher to seven losses. “Everything looks tougher, like the hitters look better and the strike zone looks smaller. It just seems tougher out there at the moment.”
Weaver had the Royals flailing most of the day, scattering four hits and striking out nine. He was tested just once, escaping a two-on, one-out jam in the fifth inning with a strikeout and a nifty backhanded snare by Frandsen at third.
“Going against Greinke, I knew it was going to be a close battle and it was there, for the most part,” said Weaver, who’s allowed four earned runs his last four starts. “Torii got that big homer to take off a little pressure and our guys were able to get to a great pitcher.”
Weaver’s day was uneventful, but plate umpire Mike Estabrook’s sure wasn’t.
He got into a shouting match with Scioscia after a foul ball by Podsednik in the first inning and ejected Royals manager Ned Yost in the third. Scioscia thought Podsednik had fouled a bunt attempt on strike two and Yost got tossed for getting in Estabrook’s face after the umpire bent down to say something to Kendall following a close two-strike pitch on Hunter.
“He came out in front, which I really haven’t seen,” Kendall said. “I told him he better get out of my face. It was unprofessional what he did and Ned came out and took care of it.”