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April 17, 2007 at 7:20 PM

Mariners vs. Twins

The fans are booing Jeff Weaver right now, but the reality is he was a couple of inches from getting out of the fifth inning down just 3-1. Unfortunately for Weaver, an 0-2 fastball he threw to Torii Hunter was called high and perhaps a tad off the plate by umpire Joe West. To be fair to West, the pitch looked like a ball to me, but it was close.
The next pitch by Weaver was driven well beyond the left field wall by Hunter for a grand slam to make it 7-1. Baseball, as they say, is a game of inches. The inches aren’t falling in Weaver’s favor tonight. Had he gotten out of that inning, it would have been a monumental lift for a pitcher in need of some positives. The Twins saw the first three hitters reach on singles to score a run. A bunt then put runners at second and third with one out. But Weaver reared back and fanned the dangerous Michael Cuddyer for the second out. A decision was then made to walk Justin Morneau, one of those lefties who gives Weaver fits. The strategy nearly worked on Hunter until, well, until it didn’t.
Same old story on offense. Eleven of the first 12 Seattle outs were hit on the ground. Twins pitcher Ramon Ortiz is in cruise control mode now.
Jeff Weaver settled down the past three innings, though the Twins’ lefties are now 3-for-6 with two doubles and a triple off him after Jason Tyner launched his second double of the game off the wall in right. Weaver got three pop-outs in a three-up, three-down inning in the second against the meek bottom third of the Minnesota order. It’s the lefties up top that have given him fits, as we mentioned. It’s a situation worth monitoring. Torii Hunter also added to the doubles parade in the top of the fourth but was stranded on base. Right now, Weaver is through four and keeping his team in this 2-1 game, despite the four doubles and the triple allowed (Minnesota has yet to notch a single — not sure what that means.)
The Mariners offensively have been easy fodder for Ramon Ortiz thus far. He’s allowed just one other hit, a Jose Vidro single to left, while all nine of the outs he’s recorded have come via grounders. The Mariners are swinging early off him and hitting into outs, explaining the 31 pitches thrown by Ortiz through three innings. Weaver, in contrast, had thrown 54 through the same three.
That wasn’t the start to this game Jeff Weaver had been hoping for. He’s already down 2-1 after a 22-pitch first inning and is fortunate the deficit isn’t any higher than that. Ichiro just went deep for his 23rd career leadoff home run on the first pitch of the bottom of the inning — tying him for 16th all-time in major league history — to halve the Minnesota lead. But it wasn’t a good top of the inning for Weaver. He fell behind early and often in counts and — as we discussed in the previous posts — it came back to haunt him against the lefty-laden top of the Twins order. Left handers Jason Tyner and Joe Mauer both made him pay with doubles before Michael Cuddyer tripled to score both.
The Tyner double was a shot. Mauer’s got just by the glove of Adrian Beltre at third, while the Cuddyer ball came a couple of feet from being caught by left fielder Raul Ibanez. But it also came about a foot or two from being a three-run homer, so it all evens out. The final out of the inning was a hard liner to left by Torii Hunter.
Weaver has to command the strike zone early. The hitting dropoff he’ll see the next inning is considerable, so he can work on some things there without too much fear of getting taken deep. Or, at least that’s the theory.



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