SEATTLE -- Right-hander Jeff Weaver retired just one of the nine batters he faced Saturday night, and his spot in the Mariners' starting rotation could be hanging by a thread. The first five batters delivered hits, and the Royals jumped out to a six-run lead and cruised to an 8-3 victory behind former Mariner Gil Meche in front of 32,441 at Safeco Field. It was another brief and ineffective outing for Weaver, who was given an unappreciative vocal escort from the fans as he walked from the mound to the first-base dugout. He sat motionless, and by himself, for several minutes during the remainder of the inning.
"I wasn't fooling anybody out there, and there is no one to blame but myself," Weaver said. "I am a big enough man to suck it up and take it for what it's worth." Weaver presumably was skating on thin ice heading into his fourth start of the season. His first three starts also were ineffective, though not this bad. Weaver lasted two innings in his first start, surrendering seven runs against the Red Sox; went six innings in an 11-2 loss to the Twins; and was lifted after three innings and three runs during an eventual loss to the Angels six days ago. "That was not fun," manager Mike Hargrove said. "From the first pitch to the last pitch, it was not fun." As for where the team and Weaver go from here wasn't immediately addressed. "I'm not going to comment on what we're going to do, or not going to do, with Jeff," Hargrove added. "Tonight was not a good outing for him, and he feels worse about it than anyone." The timing seemed ideal for Weaver to have his first quality outing of the season. The Mariners were on a season-high four-game winning streak as they climbed back to the .500 mark, and the Royals are the second-lowest scoring team in the American League. But in a span of 18 minutes and 29 pitches, Weaver surrendered singles to David DeJesus, Mark Grudzielanek, Mark Teahen and Mike Sweeney, a double to Ross Gload, single to Alex Gordon, walk to John Buck and single to Tony Pena. The only out was Emil Brown's run-scoring grounder to shortstop. "It's tough to place your finger on it," Weaver said. "You feel you have something figured out and you're ready to go out there and turn the corner and then have another game like this, where it seemed like everything you threw up there they were putting a good swing on it and putting the ball in play. "Maybe I am telegraphing a few things out there that I am not realizing. I'm not fooling anybody out there, and it's tough to imagine guys being on every pitch when you have four or five different pitches up there. "There are no excuses. It could have just been terrible."
Hargrove said it's all about the location of Weaver's pitches."Location is all it is," the skipper said. "His velocity was good, but he got ahead in the count to Grudzielanek and hung a breaking ball. He was 'up' with everything and they do what you do when pitches are left up in the zone -- they hit it." Weaver said the start of this season reminds him of the start he had with the Angels last season, when he lost 10 of his first 13 decisions and was removed from the rotation prior to being traded to the Cardinals. His 0-4 start matches the worst of his nine-year career, and the one-third inning outing was the shortest of his Major League career. "It's all me," he said. "I face up to the responsibility of working deep into the game, and I haven't done that." Right-hander Sean White replaced Weaver and retired the first two batters he faced to keep his colleague's ERA from climbing over the 20.00 mark. Besides an 0-4 record, Weaver has an 18.26 ERA. "It's tough on everyone -- me, the team and the fans," Weaver said. "It's a tough game that can destroy you in a very short time. It's all about working hard, believing in yourself -- and I will continue to do that." Weaver said he wouldn't comment on being removed from the rotation until it actually happens, but he appears adamant about working his way out of the month-long funk. "I think it will take just one game to turn the corner, and we're trying to get it done sooner than later," he said. "I don't know if it's trying to do too much and impress too many people, but I am the center of attention because of my struggles -- and that's understandable. Weaver's next scheduled start is Friday night at Yankee Stadium, but that's the day right-hander Felix Hernandez is expected to come off the 15-day disabled list. The most positive aspect for the Mariners in the middle game of the three-game series was three more hits from designated hitter Jose Vidro. He extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a first-inning single, lined a hit to left field in the third and singled to left-center in the fifth. The Mariners rapped 10 hits off Meche (2-1), but they stranded 10 runners, including five in scoring position. All three runs they scored were unearned.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.