ANAHEIM — There was a sense of urgency in the Angels clubhouse Friday that didn't seem to exist in April, May, June and early July. Coming out of the All-Star break with an 11-game deficit and the division-leading Oakland Athletics in town for three games may have been just the jolt the club needed.
"It's the second half, every game is critical," said slugger Albert Pujols, normally among the most even-keeled of Angels. "It's not like there is tomorrow. Before you know it, it's September. We have to win as many games as we can."
They got a good start Friday night, pairing another superb Jered Weaver effort against the A's with solo home runs by Pujols, Erick Aybar and Mike Trout in a 4-1 victory that kicked off a stretch in which the Angels play 13 of 20 games after the break against Oakland and Texas.
Weaver gave up four hits over 6 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out eight and walking four, to extend his scoreless streak against Oakland to 24 2/3 innings and improve to 7-1 with a 0.84 earned-run average against the A's since 2011. He has given up only one earned run in his last 37 1/3 innings against Oakland.
The right-hander caught a break when A's slugger Yoenis Cespedes, who won Monday night's home run derby in New York, was a late scratch because of a sore left wrist, but considering how sharp Weaver's slider and changeup were, it might not have mattered. Of Weaver's season-high 118 pitches, 71 were strikes.
Weaver was pulled with two outs in the seventh in favor of left-hander Scott Downs, who struck out Coco Crisp to extend his string of consecutive scoreless appearances to 27 over 16 1/3 innings.
Dane De La Rosa threw a scoreless eighth, but Kevin Jepsen ran into some trouble in the ninth when Brandon Moss led off with a single, took second on right fielder Josh Hamilton's fielding error and scored on Chris Young's double to right-center to make it 4-1.
Manager Mike Scioscia, not wanting to take chances, turned to closer Ernesto Frieri, who, on his 28th birthday, struck out Seth Smith looking, got Eric Sogard to fly to center and Crisp to fly to center for his 23rd save.
That put the finishing touches on Scioscia's 1,200th career victory, making him the 39th manager (fifth active) with 1,200 wins.
The Angels, who closed the first half with three losses in Seattle, took a 1-0 lead in the first when J.B. Shuck reached on an infield single and took second on an error, Trout walked and Hamilton flared a run-scoring double off the glove of diving right fielder Josh Reddick.
Pujols lined his 16th homer of the season and 491st of his career to left field in the third for a 2-0 lead, which catcher Chris Iannetta, who has thrown out only six of 61 base-stealers this season, helped preserve when, with two on and two out in the fifth, he picked off John Jaso at first to end the inning.
Aybar then wrapped his fourth homer of the season around the right-field foul pole to lead off the bottom of the fifth, and Trout lined his 16th homer of the season to left with one out to make it 4-0.