TORONTO -- As Mike Butcher walked to the mound, he had no reason to believe this visit would be any different from any of the hundreds he has made as the Los Angeles Angels' pitching coach.
He might offer a pitcher a suggestion, ask him how he feels, maybe just stall for a couple minutes so a reliever can get ready. But never does he remove the pitcher. With the Angels, that job belongs to manager Mike Scioscia.
On Sunday, however, there was Butcher, pointing to the bullpen to summon a new pitcher. Jered Weaver asked out, a move as unusual and impressive as his reinvention as a velocity-challenged ace. As the Angels thumped the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, 9-3, praise for Weaver echoed from all corners of the clubhouse.
"It takes a man to tell you he wants to come out of the game," Butcher said. "Hats off to him."
The Angels (19-17) climbed two games above .500 for the first time in two years. As Hank Conger homered and drove in a career-high five runs, and Howie Kendrick collected three hits, the Angels beat Toronto for the third straight day -- they go for the series sweep Monday -- and won for the eighth time in 12 games.
If you knew nothing but the numbers in the box score, you would say Weaver had a pretty good day. He won his fourth consecutive decision, giving up one run -- Jose Reyes scored from second base on a ground ball to second base -- and four hits in 6 1/3 innings. In his last five starts, Weaver is 4-0 with a 1.71 earned-run average.
However, if you know Weaver as an uber-competitor, not shy about speaking out when he feels Scioscia has yanked him too soon, then what happened in the seventh inning was extraordinary.
The Angels led, 7-1, and Weaver had not given up a hit to 17 consecutive batters. His fastball has gotten a little bit more life lately -- he even hit 90 mph on one pitch Sunday -- and he was masterfully mixing fastballs in the 80s, changeups in the 70s, and curves in the 60s.
Suddenly, with one out, Adam Lind doubled and Dioner Navarro singled, and the Jays had as many hits in that inning as they did in the previous six. The Angels asked Michael Kohn to start warming up in the bullpen. Weaver walked Juan Francisco on five pitches, the last one an 84-mph fastball in the dirt.
"I didn't have any command of my fastball," Weaver said.
With Colby Rasmus due up, Scioscia sent Butcher to the mound, for a brief chat with Weaver.
"We felt good about him matching up against Rasmus," Scioscia said. "Butch went out to give him a little breather."
As Butcher and Weaver talked with catcher Conger, Weaver expressed his concern about losing touch on his fastball, with a good fastball hitter coming up, and the chance Rasmus might guess -- correctly -- on an off-speed pitch.
Next thing you knew, Butcher was calling for Kohn, who figured Weaver had one more batter, at least.
"I was surprised," Kohn said. "I was warming up, taking my time, and they said, 'You're in the game.' "
Butcher emphasized that Weaver "didn't beg to come out of the game," but for Weaver to even broach the idea stunned Conger.
"I was a little shocked," Conger said. "He always loves taking the ball."
Weaver doesn't want to be turned into a folk hero for asking out of the game. He certainly has no plans to do it again, since once was humbling enough.
"It took a lot for me to do that," he said. "Sometimes, you've got to swallow your pride."
KEY MOMENT: In the sixth inning, Hank Conger hit a three-run home run, extending the Angels' lead to 6-1. Conger also doubled home a run in the fourth inning and singled home a run in the ninth, giving him the first five-RBI game of his career and the first for an Angels catcher since Bobby Wilson in 2010. In the Angels' 36 games, Conger and fellow catcher Chris Iannetta have combined for six home runs and 27 runs batted in. The Angels have gotten more RBIs from their catchers than any American League team.
AT THE PLATE: Howie Kendrick moved into the American League's top 10 in batting with a three-hit game that improved his average to .314. Kendrick also stole two bases, giving him nine. His career high: 14. Mike Trout had a run-scoring double but struck out four times. He is batting .118 in May, and is tied for the AL lead with 46 strikeouts.
ON THE MOUND: Jered Weaver gave up one run and four hits over 6 1/3 innings, winning his fourth consecutive decision. Michael Kohn inherited a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning, getting a pop fly and strikeout to strand all three runners. Hector Santiago, in his first appearance since the Angels demoted him from the starting rotation, faced two batters and retired both.
MOTHERLY LOVE: Angels rookie reliever Michael Morin surprised his mom with a trip to Toronto for Mother's Day. She arrived from her Kansas City home Saturday night, and she leaves Monday morning, so Sunday's game would be the only one she would see here. Morin worked the ninth inning, retired the Blue Jays in order, then got the game ball and presented it to his mom.
BROTHERLY BOND: The Angels could have given that ninth inning to reliever Cory Rasmus, whose brother Colby, a Toronto outfielder, was due up second. With a six-run lead, did Scioscia consider using Cory Rasmus so he could face his brother? "For that reason? No," Scioscia said. The brother-against-brother at-bat would have made for a happy gift for their mother, although Scioscia noted both brothers could not have succeeded simultaneously. "She was going to be disappointed one way or the other," Scioscia said.
WHO'S ON THIRD: The Angels might replace third baseman Ian Stewart on the roster Monday with Luis Jimenez. Stewart left Sunday's game in the seventh inning after he was hit on the left hand by a pitch, a swinging strike, with his hand on the bat. Although X-rays were negative, the Angels did not rule out putting him on the disabled list. Stewart ended a skid at 0 for 24 with a triple, his third of the season. The three triples ties him for the major league lead and ties his career high. He struck out in his other two at-bats, giving him 31 strikeouts in 68 at-bats this season.
(c)2014 Los Angeles Times
Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services