In both his starts this year, D-backs right-hander Luke Weaver has seemingly had things in hand through the first three innings, but the fourth inning got sideways on him.
On Saturday night, he allowed three runs in the fourth and was gone three batters into the fifth. The Dodgers scored five runs in the frame en route to an 11-2 win over the D-backs at Chase Field.
In his first start of the year against the Padres, Weaver allowed one run over three innings but then failed to get out of what turned out to be a five-run fourth inning.
“That’s a great question,” Weaver said when asked about the similarities in the two starts. “It’s obviously frustrating knowing that the game is going pretty well, things are going good, I feel in control. I felt like my dominant self. And then it just kind of starts to build and spiral.
“We always say to try to limit the big hit, the big inning, I can’t seem to avoid that right now, but I’m going to get back to the drawing board. I’m not going to stop until I figure it out.”
One of the toughest things for a pitcher to do is to make adjustments in the middle of an inning, and it’s something younger pitchers, in particular, can struggle with.
“The speed of the game starts to elevate your blood pressure, your heart rate,” Weaver said on his postgame Zoom session with the media. “You learn a lot of that as a younger pitcher. The more times you get out of there in those situations, you’ve just got to learn to control it. I feel good in those moments, but execution is just not quite there.”
What must frustrate Weaver the most is big innings were something he dealt with a couple of years ago while pitching for the Cardinals. He seemed to have put those behind him last year when he was the D-backs’ best pitcher for the first six weeks of the season before injuring his elbow and missing almost the entire rest of the season.
The only thing D-backs manager Torey Lovullo could point to Saturday was the fact that Weaver walked the leadoff batter in the fourth before Edwin Ríos hit a two-run homer and Matt Beaty added a solo shot. Then he walked the leadoff man again in the fifth.
“He’s got elite stuff, no doubt about it,” Lovullo said, via Zoom. “But he may be missing in certain situations to create some traffic and then making a mistake in the middle of the zone. Today, that was the case for him. I don’t think it’s a lack of focus, I don’t think it’s a lack of stuff. I just think it’s probably making some mistakes at the wrong time.
“We’ll talk about that. We’ll figure that out. We’ll sit down as a group and try to figure out how to coach him up and do our jobs to make sure he gets better next time.”
The D-backs are searching for a lot of answers right now as the loss dropped them to 3-6.
Their offense, which has struggled for much of the first week of the season got an early run off Julio Urías in the first and one more in the fourth but managed just one hit the rest of the way.
The D-backs need to start playing better because the schedule does not lighten up. They have one more game against the Dodgers on Sunday, a day off Monday and then three games against the defending American League champion Astros.
“We had a meeting with my teammates [Friday] before the game,” veteran third baseman Eduardo Escobar said. “It was a meeting with all my teammates, pitchers and position players, and everybody on this team is still positive. I know it’s frustrating right now for everybody. We want to win. It’s a short season. We don’t want to panic. But, believe me, with my guys, my teammates, there’s no panic.
“We’re still working hard. We’re still fighting. We don’t have the best results, but we can still control coming to the ballpark with a different energy and mentality and fight again tomorrow.”