Wednesday, April 18, 2007


AP photo -- Elaine Thompson

[initial partial post]

In 25 words or less: The fact that Jeff Weaver's pitching like a fifth starter wouldn't be so bad if he weren't getting paid $8 million.

This one featured starting pitchers rejected by the Angels, Ramon Ortiz and Jeff Weaver. Ortiz looked to bring back some nostalgia with a dash of his Pedro Lite days, where Jeff Weaver looked to be as good as he was about seven years ago, when the Mariners should have actually had him. With a win in this game, the Mariners had a chance to jump to three games above .500. While that doesn't seem like such a big thing, keep in mind the Mariners haven't been that far above .500 since the final day of the 2003 season. Yes, technically, they haven't been that good in four years. We all remember the 2003 season, the one with the 42-19 start and the agonizing 51-50 finish. Who can forget the key acquisition of Rey Sanchez? Who remembers Jeff Nelson popping off about management, then getting traded for Armando Benitez, and management saying there was no correlation between Nelson's comments and the trade? Who remembers Giovanni Carrara's amazing tenure in a Mariner uniform? Who remembers the last time Joel Piñeiro was any good? Yes, all of those things occurred during the 2003 season.

Luis Castillo was ahead 3-1, fouled off a full-count pitch to the left side (Ibañez nearly made a sliding catch), then foul-tipped an inner-half fastball into Johjima's glove for strike three. Jason Tyner was up 2-0 and later doubled into the gap in rightcenter. Joe Mauer poked a 2-2 pitch just inside the third-base bag and down the leftfield line for a double that scored Tyner.
Mike Cuddyer cranked an 0-2 pitch toward the leftfield corner, where Ibañez tried to make a leaping catch at the wall but was unsuccessful, resulting in a triple that scored Mauer.
Justin Morneau grounded the first pitch to a drawn-in Lopez on the right side for a 4-3 putout with Cuddyer holding at third. Torii Hunter lined out to left on the first pitch. Weaver threw 22 pitches.

Ichiro gave a ride to the first pitch once again, putting it into the first row of seats in rightcenter. Impressive.
Adrian Beltre bounced out to the third baseman Rodriguez on the left side on a play moving to his left. Jose Vidro rolled a ball through the left side that got just past the reach of Bartlett at short for a single. Raul Ibañez grouned back to the mound to start a 1-6-3 double play. Ortiz threw eight pitches.

Jason Kubel worked an 0-2 count full before popping foul to the left side, where Ibañez ran all the way over to make a sliding catch. Luis Rodriguez got ahead 3-1 before popping a full-count pitch to Beltre in foul ground just in front of the seats on the left side. Jason Bartlett popped an 0-2 pitch to Guillen running into very shallow right. Weaver threw 16 pitches and had 38 through two.

Richie Sexson grounded hard to third as the roof at the Safe was just about to completely close. Jose Guillen took a 2-2 pitch off his right hand, instantly bringing the trainer out from the dugout (Guillen would make his way to first base). Kenji Johjima grounded the second pitch to third to start a 5-4-3 double play. Ortiz threw ten pitches and had 18 through two.

Castillo chopped back to the mound. Tyner roped a double off the base of the wall in rightfield. Mauer lined a 1-2 pitch that Lopez took on the short hop, then he threw to first. Cuddyer took an 0-2 sidearm pitch from Weaver that barely missed outside, then took the next pitch over the inner half. Weaver threw 15 pitches and had 53 through three.

Yuniesky Betancourt grounded to third on a full count. Jose Lopez bounced the first pitch to third. Ichiro had both hitters' counts before shooting a hot grounder to third, where Rodriguez dove to his left, then threw out Ichiro (not some catcher) from the seat of his pants. Ortiz threw 13 pitches and had 31 through three.

Morneau shot a wormburner to Betancourt on the first-base side of second base for a groundout. Hunter blistered the first pitch that one-hopped off the track and wall in left for a double. Kubel rolled the second pitch to second, moving Hunter to third. Rodriguez grounded hard to first on the second pitch. Weaver threw eight pitches and had 61 through four.

Beltre rolled over on the second pitch, grounding out to third. Vidro hit what looked like a normal fly ball, but it took Hunter to the centerfield track, where Hunter casually caught it one-handed, over the shoulder. Ibañez chopped an 0-2 pitch over the mound, and Bartlett charged it behind the mound to throw out Ibañez at first. Ortiz threw eight pitches and had 39 through four.

Bartlett chopped the first pitch that took a bad hop over Betancourt at short for a single. Castillo had both hitters' counts before stroking a full-count pitch through a wide-open right side (Bartlett went with the pitch) for a single that moved Bartlett to third. Tyner punched a 1-2 sidearm pitch through the right side for a single that scored Bartlett. This drew a mound visit from Johjima.
Mauer bunted (WHAT?!!?!!?!) the first pitch along the third-base line, where Johjima came out to field it and threw in time to first as the runners moved to third and second. Cuddyer whiffed on an 0-2 pitch that was about a foot outside. Pitching coach Rafael Chaves visited the mound due to a certain MVP hitter that was coming to the plate. Morneau was intentionally walked to load the bases. Hunter fell behind 0-2, then Weaver dropped down sidearm on the 1-2 offering, serving up an absolute meatball up in the zone that Hunter obliterated, and the ball came down somewhere in the visitors' bullpen. Rye bread, mustard, grandma, and larger-than-normal salamis come to mind.
Kubel shot the second pitch over Ichiro's head and to the centerfield wall for a double because when it rains, it pours. Rodriguez grounded the second pitch to Sexson on the right side for a 3-1 putout, after which Weaver spiked the ball into the infield grass in disgust. Weaver threw 28 pitches and had 89 through five.

Sexson stuck a line drive past Rodriguez at third and into the leftfield corner for a double. Guillen fell behind 0-2 and threw the bat out on a 1-2 pitch, not quite poking it over Castillo at second, who instead climbed the ladder to spear the liner, though Sexson got back to second in time to avoid being doubled off. Johjima worked an 0-2 count full before flying out to shallow left. Betancourt worked a 1-2 count full before bouncing out to third. Ortiz threw 23 pitches and had 62 through five.

Bartlett rolled over the second pitch, grounding out to third. Castillo hit a chopper that led Sexson to the first-base bag. Tyner rolled the second pitch to second. Weaver threw seven pitches and had 96 through six.

Weaver's line: 6 innings, 7 runs, 10 hits, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts, 96 pitches (64 strikes)

Lopez stroked a long fly ball that went into the visitors' bullpen. Really. Lopez hit a homer. I can't believe it.
Ichiro was ahead 3-0 but popped a 3-1 pitch to Tyner in foul ground on the left side, who was nearly taken out at the knees by Bartlett moving over from short. Beltre reached a bit outside, nubbing a 2-2 pitch to second. Vidro broke his bat on a 2-0 pitch, hitting a low liner that landed into shallow leftcenter for a single. Ibañez hit the second pitch for a fly to shallow center that Hunter just barely missed (the ball bounced under his glove and his chest may have landed on it as well), enabling Vidro to scoot to second as Ibañez reached on the single. Sexson fouled the first pitch off the inside of his left ankle and ended up dribbling the second pitch to third for a groundout. Ortiz threw 21 pitches and had 83 through six.

Sean White came in for Weaver. Mauer sent a long liner that went off the track in leftcenter, then Ibañez overran the ball, resulting in Mauer ending up on third as he is fleet-footed for a catcher (scored as a double and an error on Ibañez). Cuddyer tapped to a drawn-in Betancourt on the right side as Mauer held at third. Morneau bounced the first pitch to a drawn-in Betancourt as Cuddyer again had to hold at third. Hunter bounced out to third. White threw 12 pitches.

In the field, Hunter left the game, Tyner moved from left to center, and Josh Rabe came in to play left. Guillen popped high to Castillo moving into shallow right. Johjima rolled out to short. Betancourt punched a grounder into center for a single. Lopez lined the first pitch into left for a single to move Betancourt to second. Ichiro nicely lined a 2-0 pitch, but it ended up in the glove of Tyner in center. Ortiz threw nine pitches and had 92 through seven.

Ortiz' line: 7 innings, 2 runs, 8 hits, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 92 pitches (58 strikes)

Kubel hit a weak broken-bat liner that Ibañez caught on the run in shallow left. Rodriguez whipped a single into right. Bartlett got ahead 3-0 and drilled a high 3-1 pitch into left for a double that moved Rodriguez to third, who was nearly picked off of third by Beltre after the relay came back to the infield. Castillo got ahead 3-1 and walked on a low full-count pitch to load the bases. Tyner flew out to shallow center on a 1-2 pitch as the runners had to hold (too shallow and Ichiro has an arm). Mauer gave a ride to the second pitch, reaching the leftfield wall on one hop for a double that scored Rodriguez and Bartlett and moved Castillo to third.
Cuddyer bounced a single that got past Betancourt, scoring Castillo from third and Mauer from second.
Morneau took a 2-1 pitch that was about three feet outside and went off Johjima's glove, enabling Cuddyer to move to second. Morneau walked on a low 3-1 pitch. Rabe popped an 0-2 pitch to Sexson in foul ground on the right side. White threw 30 pitches and had 42 total.

White's line: 2 innings, 4 runs, 5 hits, 2 walks, 0 strikeouts, 42 pitches (24 strikes)

Dennys Reyes came in for Ortiz. Beltre bounced a single through the left side. Vidro smoked a line drive on the first pitch, but Rabe made a shoestring catch. Ibañez bounced the second pitch to short to start a 6-4-3 double play that featured some turning mid-air action by Castillo on the turn. Reyes threw four pitches.

Reyes' line: 1 inning, 0 runs, 1 hit, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 4 pitches (3 strikes)

Chris Reitsma came in for White. Kubel rolled out to a charging Betancourt at short. Rodriguez got ahead 2-0 before flying out to Ichiro in rightcenter. Bartlett got ahead 3-0 and grounded a 3-1 pitch to third on which Beltre made a nice play to his left which I can't really describe at the moment; kind of a slide, gather, and throw. Reitsma threw 13 pitches.

Reitsma's line: 1 inning, 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 13 pitches (6 strikes)

Pat Neshek came in for Reyes. Sexson walked on a full-count pitch inside. Guillen lasered an 0-2 pitch that nearly vaporized Neshek on its way into centerfield for a single that moved Sexson to second. Johjima worked a 1-2 count full but finally whiffed on the tenth pitch of the at-bat, a changeup. Ben Broussard, hitting for Betancourt, put a decent charge into the first pitch, sending it to deep leftcenter for a flyout, moving Sexson to third and Guillen to second. Lopez whiffed on an 0-2 pitch over the outside corner.

Neshek's line: 1 inning, 0 runs, 1 hit, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts, 24 pitches (17 strikes)

Gameball: Jose Vidro.
Okay, so the obvious gameball would go to Jose Lopez for going 2-for-4 with a homer. The Lopez homer was his first since September 24th of last season (a span of 13 games), and it's only his second homer since June 2nd of last season (a span of 107 games). The homer and hit by Lopez were both toward the left side, so maybe he's gotten back to driving the ball toward the left side instead of popping and grounding out to the right side; maybe he can get back to the strengths that made him an All-Star last year before his power fell off the face of the earth after June (i.e., after Hargrove moved him to the third slot in the lineup to get Beltre going at the second slot). Oh, this is Vidro's paragraph...after a great day on Sunday, Vidro collected two more singles as well as a healthy warning-track fly to deep center. I'm just finding it ironic that I railed against the fact that Vidro's on this team and hitting third (goat paragraph after Saturday's game), then he goes nuts the next day. It's grand stuff, really.

Goat: Jeff Weaver.
The delusions of grandeur were all too true because they were coming off the bat of Torii Hunter. Did Weaver miss with that slider, or did he miss with that slider? That was a no-doubter the moment it jumped off Hunter's bat, not that a hanging slider shouldn't be just that. The fifth started with the bad-hop single that got by Betancourt. A pitcher should be able to pitch past that, sure. Weaver immediately fell behind the next hitter, Castillo, who singled. Tyner singled to make it a 3-1 game, then for some awful reason, Ron Gardenhire made Mauer bunt (successfully), then Weaver struck out Cuddyer. Morneau was the next hitter, and he was walked to load the bases with two out, and that's when Weaver hung the slider to put the game out of reach. Weaver gave up a double to the next hitter for good measure before getting the third out. It's kinda weird because they strategically went about things the right way by walking Morneau with first base open and two out. Still, I cringed as soon as Weaver dropped down sidearmed to throw that pitch to Hunter. It just seemed doomed from the start. I guess the point here is, this offense might be better than the one from last season, but if the starting pitcher gives up seven runs, they don't have that great a chance to win.

Yr W-L Pct GB Stk
2001 7-2 .778 -- W3
2002 6-3 .667 1 W3
2000 5-4 .556 2 L1
2005 5-4 .556 2 W3
2007 5-4 .556 2 L1
2003 4-5 .444 3 L2
2006 4-5 .444 3 W1
2004 2-7 .222 5 W1

Silva. Hernandez. Tonight.

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