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ANGELS CLAIM GAME OF TAG MATHIS' PLAY SEALS WIN OVER WHITE SOX ANGELS 2, CHICAGO 1.

Byline: DOUG PADILLA

Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- This time, the Angels catcher applied the tag after an A.J. Pierzynski strikeout and the Angels walked away 2-1 winners over the Chicago White Sox on Saturday.

The victory ended a two-game losing streak, and, combined with the Seattle Mariners' defeat, the Angels' magic number for winning the American League West was reduced to seven.

The deciding moment was oddly similar to a play that has now gone down into Angels postseason lore, as Pierzynski was at the plate in the ninth inning in the same ballpark with the game in the balance.

In the ninth inning of Game 2 of the 2005 American League Championship Series, Pierzynski also struck out. But then-Angels catcher Josh Paul never made the tag -- not like it appeared he had to -- the White Sox were handed a baserunner, and they cashed it in for a crucial victory that led them to a World Series title.

Jeff Mathis showed he knows his history. When Francisco Rodriguez struck out Pierzynski in the ninth inning Saturday with the tying run on second, Mathis made the tag even though he didn't have to, ending the game.

"Anything close to the ground, especially in that situation, I'm tagging anybody, not just him," Mathis said. "I just want to make sure."

Asked if the ALCS play came to mind afterward, Mathis failed to hold back a quick smile.

"You know, maybe a little bit," he said, turning straight-faced again. "You just want to be sure. I didn't even know if I caught it, to be honest with you. I looked in the glove first and it was there, and then I tagged him to make sure."

Jered Weaver sure appreciated Mathis' thoroughness. Weaver was long gone by the time the game-ending play happened, but it helped seal his 12th victory of the season. Weaver threw a career high 114 pitches over six innings, giving up a run on four hits.

The effort of the Simi Valley native was good enough to outduel another Southern California product, as Jon Garland (Granada Hills High) gave up two runs (one earned) on nine hits over seven innings.

Weaver missed most of spring training and a handful of starts to open the season because of biceps tendinitis, but that early injury might be paying dividends now. Weaver not only is fresher than he otherwise might have been, but an arm-strengthening program, started in midseason, also is paying off.

"It feels like I'm getting stronger as the season has gone on," Weaver said. "Me and the training staff are working hard to get everything back in shape again. The last month or two, things have been falling in place mechanically, and arm slot and all that stuff."

Weaver grew alarmed that his fastball was only in the mid-80s shortly after the All-Star break. With his velocity back in the 90mph range, he has started to look more like the pitcher that dominated in 2006.

In four of his past five outings, Weaver has given up two earned runs or less.

"His stuff is really starting to pick up after probably his first 10starts or so," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think he is throwing the ball every bit as consistently as he did last season."

Weaver needed to be consistent Saturday. The Angels grabbed a 1-0 lead in the third inning on three consecutive singles, the last by Vladimir Guerrero to bring home Chone Figgins.

The White Sox came right back to tie the score 1-1 a half-inning later. Jerry Owens (Hart High) delivered an RBI single through the hole at second to score Danny Richar.

The Angels managed to answer right back and got some help from the White Sox while doing so. Howie Kendrick was awarded second base when White Sox third baseman Andy Gonzalez picked up his groundball and threw it out of play. Kendrick scored on a single by Reggie Willits.

The White Sox would never answer. After Weaver's six innings, Darren Oliver handled the seventh inning, Scot Shields pitched the eighth and Rodriguez finished off the ninth for his 35th save.

doug.padilla@sgvn.com

(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2731

ANGELS

TODAY

Angels (Saunders 8-3) at Chicago White Sox (Buehrle 9-9), 11:05 a.m., U.S. Cellular Field.

TV: Ch. 13.

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Photo:

Angels starter Jeff Weaver gave up just one run in six innings Saturday against the Chicago White Sox while striking out eight and walking one.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 16, 2007
Words:752
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