Mariners get all the runs they need on Montero’s three-run blast in fourth inning.
Each day when Lloyd McClendon meets with the media before the game, he’s asked about that night’s starting lineup. The questions range from batting order decisions to why one player is in there instead of another.
He enjoys and answers the questions with the joy of a man headed for a day of root canals.
It was no different before Wednesday’s 3-1 win against the Angels and starter Jered Weaver.
McClendon was asked for the reason he was starting the right-handed hitting Jesus Montero instead of the left-handing hitting Logan Morrison against the veteran Angels’ right-hander.
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A quick mention was made about Montero’s previous success against Weaver. Coming into the game, Montero had 10 career at-bats against Weaver with five hits — four of them home runs.
It was an impressive number for the small sample size — though none of those bats had come in the last three seasons.
So do those numbers still matter since they came before the 2012 when Weaver was a different pitcher and Montero was a different hitter with a much different body?
“It means everything in the world,” he said, his voice rising. “The player knows they hit him and the pitchers he hits him. Trust me. They know.”
With two outs and Nelson Cruz on second and Seth Smith on first base in the fourth inning, Montero proved McClendon’s decision to be right one.
Montero hammered a hanging curveball from Weaver, sending a line drive over the wall in left-center into the Mariners’ bullpen for a three-run homer and a 3-0 lead.
“He got me out with that same curveball my first at-bat,” Montero said. “It was right in the middle. I just sat on it and hit it.”
It was Montero’s sixth career hit off Weaver in 12 at-bats and his fifth home run.
“I’d like to pick his brain a little bit,” Weaver said. “You will have guys like that who run into you who see you well. I was trying to bury a curveball and trying to get him to swing over the top, but it hung and ran right into his bat.”
Given a 3-0 lead, Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma did what all good pitchers do — post a shutdown follow-up inning.
Despite giving up a leadoff double to Erick Aybar to start the fifth inning, Iwakuma came back strong, stranding him there. He struck out David Freese, Carlos Perez and pinch-hitter Matt Joyce in succession to close out the top of the fifth.
“You always to post a zero right after getting a lead,” Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki.
Things got a little testy in the bottom of the fifth, leading to an early exit for Weaver.
Kyle Seager went into his normal pre-pitch routine, which includes holding his left hand up to the umpire to ask for extra time to get set in the batter’s box.
“I was calling time out and it takes me a little while to get in the box and I had my hand up the whole time,” Seager said. “He started to pitch and I kept my hand up and I guess he didn’t particularly care for it.”
Weaver took exception to being stopped midpitch and gestured to Seager with a few choice words about hurrying up.
“He looked set and ready to go,” Weaver said. “It’s not when he’s ready. It’s when we’re both ready. I was on the rubber ready to go and he’s standing in the box. Just cause he has his hand up, doesn’t mean anything. If you’re going to do that, step out of the box, keep a foot out. Do something. When you have both feet planted in there and you are looking at me, I assume you’re ready to go. I don’t know if Derek Jeter did that in his third or fourth year. He was ready and I was ready and I was ready to make a pitch.”
Seager answered with some words of his own.
“He started the conversation,” Seager said. “It definitely escalated and he handled it the way he wanted it to.”
An irritated Weaver then promptly tossed an 83 mph fastball that hit Seager in the upper back/shoulder area. Plate umpire Brian O’Nora immediately ejected Weaver. A few players spilled on to the field in preparation for an altercation and manager Mike Scioscia came out to protest the ejection, but no real confrontation occurred between the two teams.
Seager wasn’t expecting it for other reasons and knew it was on purpose.
“I was surprised he hit me,” he said. “Because if you hit me there, it’s pretty obvious what’s going to happen and he’s going to be out of the game. I guess he was tired of pitching. “
And like in the game, Seager wasn’t finished.
“From my perspective, he quit on his team and I didn’t quit on mine,” he said.