- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 10, 2016

CHICAGO (AP) - Even though Jared Weaver still isn’t pitching the way he wants to, he thinks he’s now progressing instead of regressing.

That’s something he couldn’t say back in spring training when he was diagnosed with “degenerative changes” in the vertebrae of his neck.

“It’s getting better,” Weaver said following the Los Angeles Angels’ 5-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night. “Every time I go out it feels different, but definitely my body is feeling a lot less restrictions.”

“One day it’s all gonna click,” he added.

This wasn’t the day, though.

Kris Bryant hit his 28th home run, John Lackey outpitched his friend and former teammate, and Chicago won its eighth consecutive game.

Willson Contreras also homered and Ben Zobrist added an RBI double for the major league-leading Cubs, who improved to 70-41.

Los Angeles (49-63) dropped its fifth straight and fell into last place in the AL West.

Kole Calhoun homered in the first inning, but that was all the offense the Angels produced. Lackey (9-7) allowed three hits over eight innings, and all six of his strikeouts were looking.

“He was really good,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s how he pitches. He’s aggressive. He went after them.”

Weaver (8-9) gave up four earned runs and another one that was unearned when he dropped a throw to first base for an error. He permitted eight hits in five innings.

“I don’t think he pitched as poorly as his linescore indicates,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “We let some things get away from us a little bit. But a couple of mistakes he made and those guys hit it out.”

The matchup of veteran right-handers was as one-sided as their teams’ seasons in the opener of Chicago’s 10-game homestand.

The 37-year-old Lackey and 33-year-old Weaver were teammates a decade ago with the Angels. They had split their previous two meetings when Lackey pitched for Boston.

“It’s still a little weird because I root for him when he’s not facing us,” Lackey said. “He’s a good friend. I really respect the way he’s still competing and still getting after it with stuff that’s a little less than he used to have. But he’s still grinding, still trying to help his club win.”

Calhoun struck first, sending Lackey’s third pitch into the left-field bleachers for his first homer since June 25. Contreras tied it with a shot to left-center in the third.

Weaver had the Cubs off balance early with his 83 mph fastball and 70 mph curve. But Chicago started to pounce the second time through the order, with Anthony Rizzo doubling in a two-run fourth and again in a two-run fifth.

The second hit came after Bryant sent Weaver’s slider onto Waveland Avenue.

“It’s one of those lineups where you can’t really breathe while you’re out there. There’s no leeway,” Weaver said.


Angels: New closer Cam Bedrosian was placed on the 15-day DL with tendinitis in his right middle finger. RHP A.J. Achter was called up from Triple-A. . 1B C.J. Cron (hand) plans to take live batting practice in Arizona this week. . RHP Nick Tropeano will undergo Tommy John surgery next Tuesday in Los Angeles.


Angels C Geovany Soto was activated from the 15-day DL following the game and C Carlos Perez was optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake. Scioscia said Soto will be in the lineup Wednesday night.


The Cubs’ Dexter Fowler was ruled out after 3B Yunel Escobar had a foul pop knocked out of his glove by a fan in the fifth. Umpires initially ruled it no play before huddling and changing the call without a replay review.


The series concludes Wednesday night with Chicago RHP Jason Hammel (11-5, 3.07 ERA) returning from the bereavement list to face right-hander and former Cubs draft pick Ricky Nolasco (4-8, 5.23).

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