Meanwhile, Jered Weaver continues to dominate

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Meanwhile, Jered Weaver continues to dominate

From Comcast SportsNet
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Jered Weaver gave the Los Angeles Angels all the relief they needed. Weaver pitched a four-hitter for his major-league leading 15th victory, and the Angels beat the Oakland Athletics 4-0 on Monday night to overtake the final spot in the crowded AL wild card standings. After a burned-out bullpen was taxed while losing four of the previous five, the Angels ace gave the staff a much-needed night off. "He's one of the best," catcher Chris Iannetta said. "And that's what the best do." Weaver (15-1) struck out nine, walked none and faced the minimum through 4 1-3 innings. The right-hander has won nine straight and a career-best 10 consecutive decisions since his only loss of the season May 13 against Texas, ranking second in franchise history to Jarrod Washburn, who won 12 consecutive decisions in 2002. "There's really no answer," Weaver said about his impressive run. "Things have been going my way." Erick Aybar singled three times and scored twice in his first game back from the disabled list to move Los Angeles (59-51) ahead of Oakland (58-51) and Baltimore (58-51) by one victory. Detroit (59-50) is in line for the other wild card spot. Jarrod Parker (7-6) allowed four runs and nine hits in 6 2-3 innings. He struck out six and walked one in Oakland's third straight loss and major-league leading 13th shutout this season. "Jered did his job on the other side and I just needed to be better," Parker said. "When I start to aim that's when I get into trouble." All the offense Weaver wanted came in typical Angels fashion. Kendrys Morales doubled leading off the second and scored on a two-out single by Aybar, who had been on the disabled list since July 22 with a broken big toe on his right foot. Mike Trout singled home Aybar two batters later to give the Angels a 2-0 lead. Trout also stole second in the first, second and eighth innings to extend his franchise record to 27 straight steals without being caught. He leads the majors with 36 stolen bases. "He wreaks havoc out there," Parker said. The Angels center fielder also singled to open the fifth but was called out sliding head-first into second on right fielder Josh Reddick's 13th assist. Trout immediately hopped up, furiously waving his hands and screaming at second base umpire Bill Miller in protest. Trout had to be restrained by both base coaches and manager Mike Scioscia. In the end, the only motions that mattered came on the mound. Weaver worked his way through the A's lineup with relative ease, facing the minimum through 4 1-3 innings. The right-hander erased the only base runner during that time -- a single by Brandon Inge leading off the bottom of the third -- when he got Eric Sogard to ground into an inning-ending double play. The Angels ace struck out the side in the fifth despite allowing a one-out single to Brandon Moss and didn't allow a runner on second until the sixth, when Eric Sogard reached on a groundout to second and advanced on Coco Crisp's ground out. Jemile Weeks popped up too short to end the inning. "You always want that lead dog," Scioscia said of Weaver. "And Weave is that lead dog." After consecutive singles by Aybar and Chris Iannetta in the seventh, Torii Hunter lined a two-run single up the middle to extend the Angels' lead to 4-0 and give Weaver more than enough room for error. Weaver now 11 career complete games and three this season, including a no-hitter against Minnesota on May 2. "He's extremely frustrating," A's catcher Derek Norris said. The one hitter Weaver never had to face has made all the difference for Oakland this season. Yoenis Cespedes did not start for the second time in three games as he recovers from a right wrist sprain. After sitting out Saturday, he went 0 for 4 on Sunday, and A's manager Bob Melvin said Cespedes' wrist bothered the outfielder in his final two at-bats. Cespedes is day to day. The A's are 46-29 when Cespedes starts and 12-22 when he doesn't. NOTES: The Angels optioned SS Andrew Romine to Triple-A Salt Lake to clear space for Aybar on the roster. ... Oakland SS Cliff Pennington (left elbow) was scheduled to play three more games with Triple-A Sacramento and could rejoin the A's by the weekend. ... Oakland RHP Bartolo Colon (8-8, 3.55 ERA) takes the mound opposite against Angels lefty C.J. Wilson (9-7, 3.27 ERA) on Tuesday.

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

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Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It certainly doesn’t feel like it will go on forever this way for the Bruins, but at this point it’s essentially a case of musical left wings on the David Krejci line as it’s been for much of this season. 

Ryan Spooner has spent the majority of the season adjusting to playing the wing with Krejci, and has been just okay trying to play away from his natural center spot while using his speed and playmaking on the wing. But the speedy Spooner also spent his share of time lately on the fourth line after getting off to a slow offensive start this season with three goals and eight points along with a minus-1 rating in 23 games. 

The bouncing between the second and fourth line has undoubtedly been frustrating for the 24-year-old getting pushed off his natural position after posting 49 points in his first full year as a third line center. But Spooner has continued to toe the company line, work on keeping his confidence high for a productive offensive season and do what he needs to in an effort to get off a fourth line.

That’s opened the door for hard-nosed former Providence College standout Tim Schaller to get some top-6 forward time on the Krejci line as well, but he’s just posted a single assist in the last three games while working hard to keep up offensively with David Krejci and David Backes. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Schaller has the grittiness to do the dirty work for that line in the corners and in front of the net, and he can certainly skate well enough for a big, energy forward. 

“To think this was going to happen, I would say ‘no’,” said Schaller when asked if he could have predicted at the start of the season that he’d be getting a look from the B’s in a top-6 role. “I’ve been able to play with whoever and whenever my whole career. I wouldn’t want to say it’s one of those things that I had expected, but I’m always ready for it. 

“We’ve been working pretty well together. I don’t know that we’ve had too many great [offensive] opportunities to capitalize on, but Backes and Krejci are good enough players that they’ll come. They’re good enough to bury on those chances, so the goals will come. I’m always going to play the same way no matter who I’m with. Those guys might have the puck on their sticks a little longer than other linemates of mine, but that will just create more space and opportunities.”

So Spooner and Schaller bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table as the B’s coaching staff searches for the right fit alongside Krejci and Backes, and Julien sounds like a coach that’s going to keep swinging back and forth between the two players. He certainly did that with Spooner during the third period in Philly, which led to an immediate goal for Krejci in the third period comeback, and toward the end of the Carolina win with the B's desperate for offense. 

Julien also didn’t rule out Matt Beleskey getting another look there as well with the Bruins having a tough time finding anybody to consistently fill Loui Eriksson’s role from last season.

“At times I don’t think that offense has been producing much because maybe it’s lacking a little bit of speed at that time, so you put Spooner back up there. But sometimes you feel like that line isn’t winning enough battles or spending enough time in the offensive zone, so you put Schaller back in there because he’s going to play a little grittier. So we’re looking there,” said Julien. “We’d love to be able to find somebody to be a consistent player there. We’ve had Matt Beleskey there and that line never really did anything. 

“[Beleskey] has been much better on the [third] line and he’s been getting more chances, so I’ve been trying to put the best scenario together, I guess. Sometimes it’s the situation and sometimes it’s the matchup [against the other team] as well. So there are different reasons for that. I’ve just got to make it work. If it’s working with [Schaller] on that night then you stick with it, and if you don’t think you’re getting enough then you move [Spooner] there and see if you can a little spark with some speed. It doesn’t mean Beleskey won’t go back there. That’s what we have right now.”

So it’s clear Julien, and the B’s coaching staff, have simply tried to find something that will work on a consistent basis with a couple of key offensive players on Boston’s second most important forward line. The one wild card in all of this: the impending return of Frank Vatrano, who has been skating for nearly two weeks as he works toward a return from foot surgery.

Vatrano was initially penciled in as the left winger alongside Krejci to start NHL camp this fall, and the Bruins were hoping he was going to build on the eight goals he scored in Boston last season in a limited role.

Vatrano could be ready to play within the next couple of weeks, and should be back in the B’s lineup prior to the early January timetable originally offered at the time of his surgery. So perhaps the 22-year-old Vatrano can end this season-long carousel of Bruins left wingers getting paraded on and off the Krejci line, and finally give the B’s greater options at left wing. 

But the Czech playmaking center could use some stability also as he looks to find the highest level of his game in a challenging year for the Black and Gold, and do it while the Bruins find the right kind of talent to skate alongside him.