A week ago, when Mike Scioscia decided he would start Jered Weaver on three days' rest -- though the first try had been a mess -- this is exactly what he had in mind. Weaver would pitch two of the Angels' final six games (on regular rest) to try to help the team reach the playoffs.
What he didn't anticipate was that his team would go 3-4 in the interim.
Now, instead of Weaver being the finisher, he's the last wall of defense. Rookie closer Jordan Walden said it after Thursday night's lifeless 4-3 12-inning loss to the Toronto Blue Jays: The Angels have six games left and they have to win them all. Of course, that might not be enough. The Boston Red Sox would have to go 3-3 just to give the Angels a share of the wild card and force a playoff.
If you're going to go down, may as well do it with your best on the mound. Weaver makes his 33rd start tonight aiming for his 19th win. He already is three innings over his personal high with two starts remaining. Only Justin Verlander and Dan Haren have thrown more pitches than Weaver's 3,629 in the AL.
The heavy wear and tear has made Weaver a different pitcher, but amazingly, a similarly effective pitcher. Weaver somehow has gone 3-0 this month with an average fastball velocity of about 88 mph, according to ESPN Stats and Info. That's a few miles per hour off his typical fastball and a few miles per hour off the major-league average.
It may not just be fatigue. Weaver seems to be throttling back, aware that he needs to reserve some fuel to get through his most trying season yet. It worked against the Orioles. It worked last time against the Oakland A's. If he can pull it off again tonight, the Angels will live to fight another day.