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May 10, 2007 at 9:01 AM

Trip finale in Detroit

OK, I’ve been wrong a couple of times today. First, on the humidity issue. As a reader below pointed out, I’m totally wrong about the effect of humidity on the flight paths of baseballs. Humid air is indeed lighter than dry air believe it or not. That’s why the old Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta used to yield so many long balls. So, that explains Jeff Weaver today, right? OK, maybe not. Anyway, here’s a USA Today item on the topic. Sorry about the confusion. I really don’t know everything and try not to pretend I do.
And on Weaver, I’ve changed my mind after that fifth inning. You know what? A starter has to be able to go six innings once in a while and offer up one of those dreaded “quality starts”. Weaver could get through six if Mike Hargrove lets him throw another frame and get up to 110 or 115 pitches, but it’s a 6-2 game right now and that’s not good enough. The three additional singles Weaver allowed that inning made up my mind for me. Not to mention the wild pitch. He’s given up 10 hits — making it 50 in just 22 innings. That’s not cutting it. Sorry, but I said two weeks ago he belongs in the bullpen and I’ll stick with that call after today. Let Cha Seung Baek show his complete game was no fluke. He deserves another shot. Figure out the roster move this weekend. Right now, this team needs to have a shot at winning every time out. Weaver isn’t providing that shot.
Just looked out on the field and Sean Green is pitching. Looks like Hargrove has seen enough after 98 pitches and wants to have a shot at winning as well.
Well, it’s now 5-0 after four innings instead of 6-0 after three, but I don’t like Seattle’s chances. Justin Verlander has settled into a groove and Weaver just allowed his second homer of the day, to Brandon Inge — another from our hitters-to-watch-out-for list down below — on a terrible hanging slider out over the middle of the plate. I’d like to say it’s a slam dunk Weaver will be yanked from his next outing, but I can’t make that call with any certainty just yet. A lot depends on how he does the next few innings. He has retired seven of the last eight batters and his pitch-count is low enough that he could go six or seven innings if he gets a quick 1-2-3 job in one of the next few frames.
If that happens, I could see the Mariners looking on the bright side and sending him out again. You can use the “he only had a couple of rough innings” line as of right now if there is no further damage. Hey, don’t yell at me. I’m just trying to spell things out here. This outing has been terrbile in spots, but it’s nowhere near as bad as Weaver looked against the Royals a couple of weeks ago. As I said, much of this will depend on what Weaver does the next two innings. If he gets through seven today, with no more runs allowed, I say the team gives him another start.
The way the Mariners are hitting right now, with 11 of 12 retired by Justin Verlander before a two-out single in the fifth by Jose Vidro, the Mariners were unlikely to win this one even with a great Weaver outing. But I get the point some of you are making, believe me. There is just a sense this team has zero chance with Weaver on the mound. Let’s watch the next two innings. Remember, seven and five and he’s back in there next week. That’s my guess.
Did some Horacio Ramirez research and he does indeed have one set of minor league options left. But it might all be a moot point after today. Jeff Weaver already trails 3-0 in the first inning after Magglio Ordonez — the guy we mentioned might give the pitcher some trouble — just hit a first-pitch, 426-foot home run into the left field seats. The pitch was a belt-high Weaver fastball on the outer half of the plate and Ordonez was waiting. He’s now 11-for-34 lifetime with three homers off Weaver.
The blast was a two-run shot after the Tigers opened the scoring on about a 375-foot sacrifice fly by Gary Sheffield to the deepest part of the ballpark. Even the outs were hit a long way that inning. Curtis Granderson opened the game by rocketing a Weaver pitch off the right field wall. The ball was hit so hard that Granderson had to settle for a single. But you get my drift. The balls are being scorched off Weaver yet again.
So, it’s 3-0 and we just started the second inning. The only good news for Seattle thus far is that the offense is getting to Justin Verlander. Had two singles and loaded the bases in the first inning, but came up empty. And Yuniesky Betancourt just opened the second inning up with a single. So, a 3-0 deficit is not insurmountable. It might be, though, if this is a 6-0 game after three innings. Weaver has to stop getting such square contact off his pitches. Not sure whether he can. We’ll see.
To answer a question below, the humid weather is supposed to prevent home runs from flying out of the park. The barometric air pressure is thick and limits the flight path of the ball. Think of trying to do leg kicks underwater in a swimming pool. This isn’t as dramatic, but you get the point. It’s the opposite reason all those home runs seem to fly out of ballparks at spring training in the dry, zero humidity air of Arizona — even on days when Weaver isn’t pitching.
A beautiful, muggy day here in the Motor City. There won’t be any rain delays in this one. A biggie for the Mariners, trying to finish .500 on a trip many of us suspected they had zero chance of anything but a losing record in. It won’t be easy, as Jeff Weaver takes his 0-5 record and 15.35 ERA to the mound. He also won’t have new clean-up hitter Richie Sexson in the lineup, nor catcher Kenji Johjima.
Yes, I know what some of you are thinking about waving white flags. After all, the Mariners picked the last Weaver start to sit regulars Adrian Beltre and Jose Vidro. But manager Mike Hargrove does have to create days off for his regulars since so many of them have already been eliminated by re-scheduling from rainouts and snowouts. I asked Hargrove moments ago what goes into such decisions.
On Johjima, it’s simply a “day game after a night game” rest that most everyday catchers typically get. Note that Pudge Rodriguez isn’t in Detroit’s lineup today. No real puzzle there. But on Sexson, he said: “I look at their career numbers against pitchers. And whenever the matchup isn’t real muy bueno they’re more likely to get a day off.”
In Sexson’s case, he’s 0-for-2 against Tigers starter Justin Verlander. Not much of a sample size there. But Verlander did hold right handed hitters to a .197 batting average, .280 on-base percentage and a .258 slugging percentage last season.
In any case, Weaver will have to find a way to get it done. His status in the rotation appears to be on shaky ground after that Cha Seung Baek performance last night. Hargrove says Baek’s complete game makes any decision on whether to demote him next week — when Felix Hernandez returns — a tough one. My guess is that Weaver doesn’t have to win this game, simply turn in a respectable showing. I don’t think this team wants to give up on Weaver and is looking for any possible excuse to keep him as a starter.
Horacio Ramirez is also on very shaky ground. Not sure whether he has any options left — am checking into that. He’s also a lefty and the team likes to have those in the rotation. But he hasn’t looked any better than Weaver the past two outings. We’ll be able to better judge who has been the trip’s worst pitcher after today.
Who should Weaver be on the lookout for? Former M’s infielder Guillen is 4-for-13 (.308) with a homer off him, Magglio Ordonez is 10-for-33 (.303) with two homers and Brandon Inge is 2-for-5 (.400) with one homer. Gary Sheffield, curiously enough, is only 1-for-6 (.167) but he’ll have plenty of time to boost those numbers today against the 2007 version of Weaver. If that one shows up. The Mariners hope the 2005 version makes an appearance on the mound. But don’t forget, that version still doesn’t get to face the pitcher every two or three innings like it did in the NL. Should be interesting.
Here are the lineups:
CF Curtis Granderson
2B Placido Polanco
DH Gary Sheffield
RF Magglio Ordonez
SS Carlos Guillen
1B Sean Casey
LF Marcus Thames
3B Brandon Inge
C Mike Rabelo
RHP Justin Verlander
CF Ichiro
DH Jose Vidro
LF Raul Ibanez
RF Jose Guillen
1B Ben Broussard
3B Adrian Beltre
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
2B Jose Lopez
C Jamie Burke
RHP Jeff Weaver



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