CLEVELAND -- The young man standing 60 feet, 6 inches away from the Indians during Friday night's 10-3 loss to the Angels looked a little familiar. The shaggy blonde hair and towering stature certainly resembled that of Jeff Weaver, who is no stranger to the Tribe. But this was Jered Weaver, the 23-year-old wunderkind and younger brother of Jeff, making his second big-league start. It's a tossup as to who has an advantage in such a situation, when a team is facing a pitcher for the first time.
"It's 50-50," Jason Michaels said. "It can go either way." It's quite clear which way this one went. Weaver dumbfounded the Indians for the better part of 6 1/3 innings, holding them to a pair of runs on four hits with two walks and eight strikeouts. Both of the runs and two of the hits came in the seventh, when the Indians were already down, 9-0, and hope had left early to beat the postgame traffic. "You look at the way [Weaver] pitched," manager Eric Wedge said, "and he was the story tonight." Well, half the story, anyway. The other half was right-hander Jason Johnson, who labored through his first two innings of work and put the Tribe in a deficit it would never escape. Johnson walked the first batter he faced, setting up a two-run home run from Vladimir Guerrero. In the second, he walked three more batters, two of which scored when Adam Kennedy came through with an RBI single and Chone Figgins contributed a sac fly. In dissecting his performance, Johnson had little to say about the first two innings. "It was one of those days," he said. "It happened, and it's over with now." Johnson chose, instead, to focus on the three innings that followed, when he held the Angels scoreless on one hit. He thought that performance was good enough to earn him a little more rope, even though his pitch count had reached 95 in only five innings. "I wanted to stay out there because I was feeling really good," he said. "I wanted a chance to keep the team in the game, but Eric Wedge had a different idea." Wedge's idea was to bring in Guillermo Mota, and the Angels pounced with Dallas McPherson's two-run homer in the sixth and Garret Anderson's three-run shot in the seventh. But when the Angels weren't torching the Indians with their bats, they were burning them on the bases. The boys from Los Angeles by way of Anaheim notched six stolen bases in this one, five of which came with Johnson on the mound. Wedge had talked earlier in the day about the improvement of the Tribe's run defense in recent weeks, but this was a step in the wrong direction. "It fell apart for us," Wedge said. "A couple times early in the game, balls we did have a chance to throw them out on were in the dirt. And we were a little slower at times in terms of release time. We need to nip that in the bud." The Indians couldn't get any nips in on Weaver early on. They had just three baserunners aboard against him in the game's first six innings. "He showed a lot of poise on the mound," said Michaels, who would homer later in the game off reliever Kevin Gregg. "He just kept the ball low and mixed in his slider really well. We hit some balls hard. But he was consistent. He stayed with his game." The Tribe finally broke through against Weaver in the seventh with Casey Blake's single and Ben Broussard's ensuing RBI double. That knocked the kid out for the night, but his first impression had been made, and it was a good one. "He was pinpointing his fastball from the first inning on," Wedge said of Weaver. "We were never able to get anything going."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.