A strong case can be made there is no better pitcher right now than Jered Weaver.
That makes a matchup with the surging New York Yankees and their powerful lineup very intriguing.
Facing perhaps his most difficult assignment of the season, Weaver will try to win a fifth straight start Sunday and prevent the Angels from getting swept for the first time in almost three months.
The last time Weaver faced the Yankees (54-33) on May 28 in Anaheim, a back injury forced him to leave after only 12 pitches. That led to a three-week stint on the disabled list, and the rest appears to have been very good for the Angels ace, who entered the All-Star break allowing one run over 27 2-3 innings during a four-start win streak.
Weaver (10-1, 1.96 ERA) closed his first half with another brilliant performance, scattering three hits over eight innings in a 3-0 victory over Baltimore on July 7.
He pitched a scoreless inning in Tuesday's All-Star game.
Weaver joined Sandy Koufax (1963-64) as the only pitchers since 1950 with consecutive seasons of double-digit wins and a sub-2.00 ERA before the All-Star break. During his seven-year career, the right-hander is 59-26 with a 2.84 ERA in 110 starts in the first half.
''I had less losses in the first half this year than last year, which is pretty good because it means that I've been able to keep the team in the game and give us a chance to win,'' said Weaver, the AL's ERA leader.
Facing the Yankees on the road, though, has been a problem for Weaver, who's 2-2 with a 5.83 ERA in five starts in the Bronx.
No Yankee has given him more trouble than Raul Ibanez, who is 14 for 27 (.519) with four homers in their matchups. Curtis Granderson is 7 for 22 with four home runs and Alex Rodriguez has taken him deep four times in 21 at-bats.
The Angels (48-40) will ask Weaver to help them avoid their first three-game losing streak since May 19-21. They haven't been swept since dropping three in a row at Tampa Bay from April 24-26.
''We've got a lot of confidence in him,'' left fielder Mike Trout said.
Facing the Yankees right now is a tough test for any pitcher - even one as good as Weaver.
Robinson Cano and Granderson each hit two-run homers and New York's bullpen combined for four innings of two-hit ball in Saturday's 5-3 victory. The Yankees have won six of seven and are a season-high 21 games over .500.
''I think this team is playing about as well as it can because we're getting contributions from a lot of different guys,'' manager Joe Girardi said.
Cano and Granderson's home runs increased New York's major league-leading total to 138, with 12 coming in the last five games.
''Their offense presents a lot of challenges,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Cano has been a very big challenge for pitchers lately. The All-Star second baseman is batting .391 with six homers and 19 RBIs during a 17-game hitting streak.
New York's Ivan Nova (10-3, 3.92) has as many wins as Weaver but his ERA is nearly two full runs higher. Still, the right-hander has been outstanding lately, going 4-1 with a 1.70 ERA in his last seven starts.
He struck out a season-high 10 in six innings while allowing two runs and six hits in a 7-3 win at Boston last Sunday.
Nova beat the Angels on May 30, overcoming five runs and eight hits allowed over 6 2-3 innings. He's 3-1 despite a 5.11 ERA in four career starts against them.
Mark Trumbo, who had gone deep in five straight games versus New York before going 0 for 3 Saturday, is 6 for 10 with a pair of home runs off Nova.
- Jered Weaver
- New York Yankees