Weaver looks to slow Hamilton, Rangers

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Jered Weaver is looking to improve to 6-0 for the second-straight season, but Josh Hamilton and the Texas Rangers stand in his way.Hammer time comes to Sunday Night Baseball (8 ET, ESPN) as Josh Hamilton and the Texas Rangers host the Los Angeles Angels in the rubber match of their three-game series.

Hamilton has already had quite a week, with nine home runs and 15 RBI in six games. With a home run on Sunday, he can become the first player with 19 home runs in his team’s first 35 games of a season. Albert Pujols (2006 Cardinals) and Cy Williams (1923 Phillies) had 18 home runs after 35 team games.

He needs one homer to match Shawn Green (2002), Albert Belle (1995) and Frank Howard (1968) for the most home runs in a seven-game span with ten.

In fact, Hamilton has almost outproduced the Angels on his own since Monday. Compared to his nine homers and 15 RBI since Monday, the Angels have driven in 18 on four home runs in the same span.

Best Run Differential, AL This Season

It hasn’t just been Hamilton for the Rangers this season. The Rangers and Cardinals are both outscoring their opponents by more than two runs per game. No other team is averaging more than one more run scored than its opponent.

Jered Weaver will look to slow down Hamilton and the Rangers offense. He is looking to start a season 6-0 for the third time in his career. Only nine pitchers, none of them active, have done that in major-league history. The record is four seasons by Roger Clemens.

Weaver has allowed just one run in his last 23 innings, but has struggled in Arlington. In 13 career starts at Rangers Ballpark, he has posted a 2-6 record with a 4.55 ERA. The only ballpark where he has a worse ERA in more than three starts is Fenway Park, where he has a 7.16 ERA in six starts.

Weaver has been able to succeed by relying on his fastball early and expanding his repertoire as the game progresses. He throws fastballs 77 percent of the time the first time through the order but only relies on heat 54 percent of the time after that.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Albert Pujols has struggled since joining the Angels in the offseason. Entering the year, his 1.037 OPS was the sixth-highest in major-league history. So far this season, his .514 OPS is the fourth-lowest in the American League.

Albert Pujols, Last 4 seasons

His biggest problem has been identifying pitches outside the strike zone. He drew a walk against the Rangers on Saturday, snapping a career-long streak of 14 straight games without a free pass.

In his first 11 seasons, he drew a walk in 13 percent of his plate appearances – so far this year, he’s drawing walks only 5 percent of the time. He is swinging at pitches outside the zone 36 percent of the time, compared to a league average of 28 percent.