From Comcast SportsNetANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Jered Weaver spent a long stretch of his 100th career victory in the batting cage and the tunnel below Angel Stadium, playing catch to keep his arm warm while the Los Angeles Angels batted around in an eight-run fourth inning.Weaver didn't lose his rhythm, and the Angels kept flowing toward a playoff berth.Weaver pitched seven innings of six-hit ball in his 18th win of the season, Chris Iannetta had a two-run single and scored on a wild pitch during that crazy rally, and the Angels moved up in the AL postseason race with an 11-3 victory over the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night.Weaver (18-4) gave up third-inning homers to Mike Napoli and Ian Kinsler, but got a huge cushion from his teammates to ease into a tie with Tampa Bay's David Price for the AL lead in wins. The ace right-hander, who has spent his entire career in Anaheim, matched his single-season high for victories and became just the sixth pitcher to win 100 games with the club."It's an honor to do it all in an Angels uniform," said Weaver, a Los Angeles-area native. "I wouldn't have it any other way. Hopefully these fans see 200 more, but I don't know. We'll see what happens."What's happening on the scoreboards is more interesting to Weaver and his teammates at the moment.Erick Aybar had three hits and scored two runs for the Angels (81-67), who moved within 3 games of wild card-leading Oakland with their 15th win in 20 games after the Athletics (84-63) lost at Detroit. Los Angeles also kept pressure on Baltimore, which sits in second place in the AL wild-card standings."We're at the point in the year when we just have to win," Iannetta said. "We need to find a way. Texas, Oakland, Baltimore, they're all in the drivers' seat, but we've been on a real good three-week stretch. We just have to keep working."Los Angeles trimmed its deficit behind the AL West-leading Rangers (87-60) to 6 games, but the Angels are much more focused on making a late wild-card push -- and with a few more innings like the fourth, they might have an outside shot.Los Angeles sent 12 batters to the plate in the fourth while carving up three Texas pitchers, including starter Ryan Dempster, during its biggest rally in nearly two months."It felt like a rain delay out there," Weaver said. "But when runs are coming across the board, you can't complain too much."With eight Angels scoring a run, they had no trouble producing offense in the absence of Albert Pujols, who missed the game to be with his wife and their newborn daughter. The Angels expect Pujols to be back in the lineup Wednesday.Dempster (6-2) was charged with five runs and six hits in 3 1-3 innings, ending his five-start winning streak with his second rough outing against the Angels. The veteran has yielded 13 earned runs to Los Angeles and just 15 to the rest of the AL during his nine starts for Texas."It got out of control," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "We just couldn't get any outs. Dempster struggled from the beginning. It was a fight the whole time, and in that fourth inning, they just took the game away from us."All-Star Josh Hamilton left in the fourth with sinus trouble that affected the slugger's vision, Washington said. Napoli had two hits in another big game against his former teammates, but Weaver and two relievers largely shut down the majors' most potent offense.Kinsler ended an 0-for-11 skid with just his second homer in 17 games, but the Angels got rolling in the fourth. After Vernon Wells and Alberto Callaspo reached, Iannetta cracked a one-out single off the bottom of the right-field wall before Mike Trout walked to chase Dempster.Tanner Scheppers then threw two pitches: He hit Aybar with the first to load the bases, and put the second into the backstop for a wild pitch. Iannetta made contact with Scheppers' leg on his slide, leaving Scheppers on the ground in agony while Napoli's throw hit home plate umpire Jim Wolf, allowing Trout to score on a throwing error.Scheppers left with a bruised right knee, but the Angels didn't let up against Mark Lowe.Aybar scored on Kendrys Morales' single, a tapper that traveled about 15 feet up the third-base line. Wells and Callaspo then drove in runs before Mark Trumbo made his second out of the inning."It was strange and bizarre," Michael Young said. "There were definitely strange things that happened that inning, but the bottom line was that they had some good at-bats and found a way to score. It doesn't matter how it happened. They scored eight."NOTES:Hamilton was replaced by Leonys Martin on defense in the bottom of the fourth. The major league leader with 42 homers walked and grounded out in his two at-bats. ... Weaver has never lost a decision to Texas at Angel Stadium, going 9-0. ... RHP Wilmer Font made his major league debut for Texas in the sixth, pitching a scoreless inning.
Highlights from the Boston Celtics 97-92 win at home against the Sacramento Kings
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.