The clubhouse was silent and somber. The Angels dressed quietly.
Josh Hamilton lamented the missed the opportunities on offense. Jered Weaver talked about all those “circus catches” from the Royals’ outfield. The rest was mostly left unsaid.
It was pushing past 10:40 p.m. here in Anaheim, and the Angels were still processing the squandered chances in a 3-2 loss to the Royals on Thursday in game one of the American League Division Series.
“When you get opportunities, you got to come through,” said third baseman David Freese. “But that’s playoff baseball.”
In his first playoff start in five years, Weaver made the most of the night, yielding just two earned runs and three hits over seven innings. The Angels couldn’t capitalize, letting game one slip through their fingers after a solo homer from Mike Moustakas in the top of the 11th.
There were missed opportunities on offense in the ninth and 10th. The Angels left eight runners on base and failed to strike against a wide-eyed Danny Duffy in the 10th inning. Center fielder Mike Trout, the presumptive American League MVP, finished zero for four with a walk. When the Angels did pose a threat, it was usually snuffed out by a collection of game-changing catches by Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain and right-fielder Nori Aoki.
“That’s where the game was won,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
On the day before his first postseason start in five years, Weaver had waited to face an old friend and teammate in Royals starter Jason Vargas. More than a decade ago, Weaver and Vargas were teammates and friends down the road at Long Beach State. For seven innings, Weaver was in control, outlasting Vargas. By the end of the night, it didn’t matter.
“Definitely a lot missed opportunities,” Hamilton said. “Aoki killed us tonight in the outfield.”
It was always going to be a struggle for the Royals on Thursday night.
Weaver’s postseason track record was solid. He entered the night with a 2.61 ERA in 201/3 postseason innings. He has been the heart of the Angels’ rotation for the better part of the last half-decade. On Thursday, Weaver reverted to his familiar postseason form, keeping the Royals in check with a steady diet of deceptive breaking stuff.
The Royals nicked Weaver for a single run in the third on an RBI double from Alcides Escobar, who took advantage of a hanging breaking ball. The Royals plated another run in the fifth after center fielder Mike Trout played an Alex Gordon fly ball into a leadoff double.
As Vargas walked a tightrope all night, relying on terrific defense from the Royals’ outfield, Weaver stayed in command. He finished strong, working perfect innings in the sixth and seventh. His night ended after he hit 100 pitches in the seventh. The score was 2-2.
In the days leading up to Thursday, Weaver had waited for his first postseason start since facing the Yankees in the 2009 ALCS. Five years ago, Weaver was slated to face the Yankees in a potential game seven. The Angels lost game six.
On Thursday, his calm was apparent. Weaver grew up here in southern California, stayed home for college at Long Beach State and has made his entire career here in Anaheim. It’s one reason he elected to sign a five-year, $85 million in 2011, eschewing the possibility of more dollars on the open market. Weaver wanted to pitch at home, but he also wanted to return to the postseason. Thursday night was supposed to be the payoff.
It turned into a wasted night instead.
“We put some good swings on some pitches,” Weaver said. “But the (Royals) were able to make some circus catches.”