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August 12, 2012 at 2:40 PM

Mariners face uphill climb against Angels ace Jered Weaver

ADDITIONAL NOTE: Mike Carp left the game with left hip tightness shortly after making that stretch to take Kyle Seager’s throw in the fifth inning. Chone Figgins pinch-hit for him (got a single) in the sixth and is now playing third base. Seager moves to second and Dustin Ackley takes over at first base.
Jason Vargas has retired his last 12 batters in a row and needed just 13 pitches to get through the sixth and seventh innings combined. Vargas takes a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the eighth after mound opponent Jered Weaver bowed out following the seventh. Weaver is on-the-hook for his first loss since May 13 in Texas, which also happens to be his only loss of the season to-date.
This is a big game for the Angels because a loss could knock them eight games out of gthe AL West lead and pretty much finish off any hope of a division title. There is still the wild-card hunt, but that’s a one-shot deal this year and not quite what this franchise had been hoping for.

2:16 p.m.: Jesus Montero just hit his second homer of the day off Jered Weaver, a towering, two-run shot to left field that makes it 3-1 for Seattle in the sixth inning. That was Montero’s third career homer off Weaver in six at-bats. It’s a biggie because Weaver is already at 98 pitches and might have just another inning left in him at this rate. So, if Jason Vargas can keep this score the same heading into the seventh, the Mariners might have cleared their biggest obstacle to victory today.
2:08 p.m.: We’ve played five innings and it’s still a 1-1 mound duel between Jered Weaver and Jason Vargas. Vargas in particular has done a good job of pitching out of trouble. The bases were loaded with two out in the third when Vargas fanned Howie Kendrick. Erick Aybar led off the fourth with a double, but was stranded at second after a groundout to Vargas, a popout and a Maicer Izturis strikeout.
1:12 p.m.: The Angels didn’t need much time to tie it up, scoring on a Vernon Wells sacrifice fly in the bottom of the second to make it 1-1. Wells has now driven in four runs since last night, having spent much of this season injured or on the bench as a sort of an Angels version of Chone Figgins.
Howie Kendrick had drawn a one-out walk, took third on a single to right by Erick Aybar, then came home on the flyball.
1:01 p.m.: Plenty of action already and this game isn’t even two innings old. Jesus Montero just went deep to center for a solo homer off Jered Weaver in the second inning and a 1-0 lead. In the top of the first, Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher was ejected for arguing balls and strikes from the dugout on a two-out pitch to Kyle Seager that resulted in a walk.
Butcher was apparently in an ill-tempered mood pre-game. Some of the local media here have been criticizing (justifiably, I’d say) the Angels rotation and bullpen of late. The rotation has been particularly inconsistent, given all the advance hype surrounding them. This Angels team looked like it would challenge for the division right around the trade deadline but has drifted back into wheel-spinning mode largely because of pitchers not getting it done consistently enough. Some poor starts left the home side in a hole the first two games of this series and the M’s could easily be 2-0 and trying for a sweep.
So, yeah, in contending towns, the heat does start to get turned up this time of year. There are expectations that have to be met and if they aren’t, those on the field and running teams tend to feel it. Anyone who saw Butcher run out and get in the plate ump’s face after that ejection can see that he’s been feeling some heat and isn’t in a very friendly frame of mind. Ah, the joys of a playoff race.
12:29 p.m.: Jered Weaver comes into this afternoon’s tilt with a 15-1 record and a 2.13 ERA. While some have kept predicting a “regression” for him going on several weeks now, it has yet to happen. Will it happen today?
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said his team will have to “take some risks” against Weaver. The M’s, he said, won’t be able to cover the entire strike zone, given the arsenal Weaver has at his disposal.
So, whether it’s sitting “dead red” on a fastball, or leaning out over the plate for a breaking ball, the Mariners will have to do some guessing — and guess right. Or else, they’ll be in for a long day.
Jason Vargas could also be in for a long day in this ballpark and against some of these home run hitters the Angels have. This will be a big test of the “improved” Vargas we’ve seen since his five-homer debacle in Arizona. It’s a hot day out here in Anaheim and the Angels can hit pitches a long, long way.

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins, Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero


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