Angels look like a different team

SEATTLE -- Maybe it was the crisp, cool Northwest air after a week of humidity and intermittent thunder back east.

Maybe it was the familiar surroundings of Safeco Field, one of their three homes away from home.

Maybe it was the players-only meeting before the game, when -- according to Torii Hunter -- players "cleared up some things."

It could just have been that their opponent is in even worse shape than they are.

Or, maybe they were simply due.

The reason doesn't matter terribly much. The Los Angeles Angels looked nothing like a team that had lost seven consecutive games and the Seattle Mariners looked very much like a team that now has in the Angels' 8-0 win in chilly Seattle on Friday night.

The Angels hitters looked as if they were ambushing Seattle ace Felix Hernandez, pounding him for four runs in the first inning, thanks to Kendry Morales' bases-clearing double. In all, the Angels launched three home runs off last year's Cy Young runner-up and pestered him by drawing four walks.

And in direct contrast to the night before, when Scott Kazmir frittered away an early 4-0 lead, Jered Weaver did what staff leaders do. He got a lead and he protected it as if it were his child. He didn't give up a hit until Ken Griffey Jr. hit a sharp grounder through the right side with two outs in the seventh.

It looked like an entirely new team dressed in red Friday.

Maybe, just maybe, that was the moment this early funk came to a definitive end. It was the Angels' first win in the first eight games of this trip after being swept at Detroit and Boston.

"Today, I thought from pregame all the way through the stages of the game and, as that game moved on, we just walked with confidence," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We went out there and played our baseball. That's important."

Weaver (4-1) had a look of determination on his face that didn't change from the first through the eighth inning. He absolutely dominated a lineup that has a defeated air to it. It was the deepest Weaver has taken a no-hitter, but with everything riding on the outcome, he said he wasn't all that caught up in it.

"I was just trying to limit baserunners, stick to the game plan whatever happened," Weaver said. "Obviously, I gave up a hit to a future Hall of Famer. You've got to tip your cap. Like I said, I wasn't feeling it just because I knew I had a lot more to go. I was just trying to stay focused."

After the fifth inning, nobody other than catcher Ryan Budde was talking to Weaver in the Angels' dugout.

"He kept executing, pitch after pitch," Budde said. "It was just that one pitch to Griffey. We tried to go heater in there and he left it down the middle."

If only the Angels could have bottled the feeling they had Friday night, because unfortunately for them, Weaver can't start every game. Saturday's starter, Joe Saunders, sorely needs to pitch a good game and give the Angels a semblance of balance in their pitching staff.

But after what the team had been through over the previous week, nobody was thinking too far ahead. Even before the game began, they were determined to make it a good day.

"No matter if we won or lost, we were going to play the game we've grown to love and know how to play," Hunter said.

Scene and heard

The visiting clubhouse at Safeco Field was vacant for about 20 minutes Friday afternoon. Other than the clubhouse guys and a few reporters, the place was a ghost town.

"Where is everybody?" I asked Scioscia.

"I don't know, they must have some food back there," he said.

When the players finally emerged, I asked Hunter where they all were.

"We were doing some team weight-lifting. We were seeing who could bench the most," Hunter said.

Uh, sorry, guys. Not buying it.

It turned out Hunter had called a players-only meeting to try and snap the team out of the losing streak. Nobody would give many details of the discussion, but it sounded like more of a pep talk than a lecture.

"There's great leadership on this team," Scioscia said.

Roster changes

The Angels addressed their struggling middle relief by optioning Matt Palmer (6.26 ERA) to Triple-A Salt Lake and recalling reserve outfielder Michael Ryan. There could be more changes coming, as backup infielder Maicer Izturis had an MRI exam on his ailing right shoulder.

The Angels were awaiting team doctor Lewis Yocum's review of the MRI results before deciding whether to put Izturis on the 15-day disabled list, but that looks like a good bet.

Quote of the day

"Soliz offered him four baseballs for it. Somebody said, 'Shoot, you could have offered him one.'" -- Budde, after bullpen catcher Steve Soliz retrieved Budde's first home run ball from a fan in the left-field stands.

Looking ahead

Saturday night's start is an important one for Saunders (1-5, 7.04 ERA), who might be pitching to hold his spot in the rotation. Only three starting pitchers in the American League with at least 30 innings have a higher ERA than Saunders. Teammate Scott Kazmir is one of them.

Unlike Kazmir, diminished stuff doesn't seem to be the problem with Saunders. His fastball and breaking ball are relatively sharp, but he has struggled with his command. The good news for him is he's facing easily the league's worst offense. Casey Kotchman, who mostly sat on the bench with the Boston Red Sox last year in the playoffs, is the Mariners' No. 3 hitter.

The Angels face young right-hander Doug Fister (2-1, 1.29 ERA), who leads the league in ERA. He's a finesse pitcher, but he's on a roll. In each of his past four starts, he has gone at least seven innings and given up two or fewer earned runs.

Mark Saxon covers the Angels for ESPNLosAngeles.com.