Commentary

Weaver hopes to follow brother's playoff footsteps

Originally Published: October 6, 2007
By Amy K. Nelson | ESPN.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It was a private moment between brothers celebrated in front of thousands of delirious fans, a moment shared in a deep October chill. The Weaver brothers embraced, and Jered clutched his older brother as tears streamed down his face. Jered had just watched Jeff win the clinching game of the World Series for the Cardinals last year, in arguably the most high-pressure start of his career.

Now Jered, nearly 12 months later, gets his own shot in the postseason when he starts Sunday against the Red Sox in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, perhaps an equally high-pressure challenge to the one his brother faced in St. Louis.

"I'm not really feeling the pressure," Jered said, "Maybe when I get out there it'll be a different story, but I'm just taking the same steps I did through the regular season."

Perhaps, but consider the circumstances under which Weaver will pitch:

• His team is down 2-0 in the series and last won a postseason game against the Red Sox in 1986.

• In two starts against Boston this year, Weaver allowed eight earned runs in 10 1/3 innings

AL DIVISION SERIES

Angels-Red Sox
series page

• His first major league loss was against the Red Sox, at Angel Stadium in 2006.

• And finally, and most significantly, it will be his first-ever postseason start.

So not only is Weaver being asked to help save his team's season but he also will share the mound with Curt Schilling, 16 years his senior and a pitcher with a history of excelling under pressure.

"The guy's obviously made a great name for himself," said Weaver, who went 13-7 with a 3.91 ERA this season. "It's going to be fun battling against a big-named guy. And hopefully, we can take him down."

Jered Weaver

Weaver

Starting Pitcher
Los Angeles Angels

Profile

2007 Season Stats
GM W L BB K ERA
28 13 7 45 115 3.91

To do that, Weaver and his team will have to do better than the 5.40 ERA and .167 batting average they posted in the first two games. The Angels are home now, where they had the best home record in the major leagues this season and led the bigs with a .305 home batting average.

But it's the pitcher who will draw the focus, and three days after his 25th birthday, Weaver will face a veteran Red Sox lineup that's very patient, historically so after it set a postseason record with nine walks in Game 2. Boston third baseman Mike Lowell wasn't sure how to handicap how Weaver might respond to the task of pitching in an elimination game, but he did give perspective.

"There's so much more of the game that's on the pitcher's' shoulders,"Lowell said. "That could be a plus, or it could not. I think it depends on personality and the kind of stuff the person has."

The Angels have the task of facing Schilling, who is well aware of his postseason legacy. The 40-year-old right-hander is 8-2 with a 2.06 ERA in the playoffs for his career. He has started in the postseason 15 times among stints with the Phillies, Diamondbacks and Red Sox, and his .800 winning percentage is the highest among pitchers with at least 10 postseason decisions.

Schilling expressed his October prowess much more succinctly than those regurgitated media notes. A nostalgic Schilling isn't the elixir the Angels need.

"When you're someone that carves a niche for doing well in the postseason -- I take pride in that," he said. "It seems like a long time since I've been able to take the ball in a game like this. Very nervous, but it's exciting."

The Angels will rely on their SoCal surfer, a Long Beach State product whose biggest start up to this point was pitching in the gold-medal game for Team USA in the 2003 Pan Am Games. Weaver, in just his second year in the majors, doesn't even know who his catcher will be Sunday, but Mike Napoli said on a conference call with reporters that he anticipates Weaver's embracing the situation.

He just pretty much said keep the game the same way and don't try and raise your level of play. He told me to try and stay calm and collected out there and let your talent and ability take over.

--Angels pitcher Jered Weaver, about advice received from his brother Jeff

"He'd like to be out there, and I have a feeling that he'd like this type of situation," Napoli said. "He knows he's good, and he knows that he can get the win out there."

The catcher also added that Weaver must throw down and get ahead of hitters. Napoli was unsure whether he'll be behind the plate to see (although it's likely, given that he was on the conference call).

If Weaver doesn't execute, Boston could be uncorking bottles before sunset and on to its second AL Championship Series in three years. The last time the Red Sox were there, a historic World Series victory resulted, with Schilling on the mound for one of their victories, lest anyone forget.

Sitting on the sideline for last year's Series served as motivation for the younger Weaver. A part of him wishes it could have been him celebrating a World Series triumph. As happy as he was for his brother, he's still a competitor. Jered will have 12 family members and friends here Sunday afternoon, including Jeff.

"He just pretty much said keep the game the same way and don't try and raise your level of play," Jered said of his brother's postseason advice. "He told me to try and stay calm and collected out there and let your talent and ability take over."

Having watched his brother reach the same baseball pinnacle that Schilling and the Red Sox have, Jered can only hope he can help his team get there, as well.

Amy K. Nelson is a staff writer for ESPN.com.

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