Weaver's curve is the winning pitch

The Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels kick off a critical three-game series at the Coliseum starting Monday night. Though the Texas Rangers have a sizeable lead in the AL West, the A’s and Angels are neck-and-neck in the AL Wild Card race, with Oakland a half-game ahead.

The Angels pitching has really struggled during this stretch, with a 6.02 ERA and 16 homers allowed in just 80⅔ innings. However, tonight they send their ace, Jered Weaver, to the mound as he looks for his league-leading 15th win of the season.

Jered Weaver Stats To Watch

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he would be the sixth pitcher in the Expansion Era to record 15 wins in his first 16 decisions in a season. The only pitchers to start 15-1 since 1961 are Dave McNally (1969), Gaylord Perry (1974), Ron Guidry (1978), Roger Clemens (2001) and Ubaldo Jimenez (2010).

Weaver is on a nearly incredible run, going 9-0 with a 1.85 ERA in his last 11 starts. A win Monday would match the third-longest streak of decisions won by an Angels starter. He has also won eight straight starts, something that only Chuck Finley (10 in 1997) has done as an Angel in a single season.

Jered Weaver Curveball This Season

Weaver has gone to curve a lot more during this undefeated stretch, nearly doubling his usage of the pitch compared to his first eight starts.

The curve has become a legitimate out-pitch for him too, as opponents are hitting .135 in at-bats ending in his hook while chasing 40 percent of those pitches in his last 11 starts.

Another key for Weaver during this stretch has been his ability to pitch under pressure. Opponents are just 2-for-31 (.065) with runners in scoring position against him in his last 11 starts; they hit .259 with RISP in his first eight starts.

Jarrod Parker Stats To Watch

Opposing Weaver will be one of the 11 rookie pitchers that Oakland has used this season, Jarrod Parker. Parker was one of the league’s best starters through the first three months of the season, posting a 2.46 ERA in his first 13 starts through July 2.

However, he struggled since then, going 2-2 with a 6.07 ERA in his last five starts. During this slump, righties are hitting .396 against him, after he held them to a .198 average in his first 13 starts.

Parker has had a lot of trouble putting hitters away, allowing a .651 OPS with two strikes in his last five starts, compared to a .419 mark in his first 13 outings.

He’s thrown his changeup more often with two strikes recently but with little success. Parker has already allowed as many two-strike hits with his changeup in his last five starts (6) as he did in his first 13 starts, in nearly half as many at-bats ending in the pitch.