Betancourt delivers big hit to beat A's
Back-and-forth game won in bottom of ninth inning
SEATTLE -- The loud music that accompanies closer J.J. Putz every time he enters a game at Safeco Field returned on Wednesday night. There wasn't a save on the line when he strolled in from the bullpen in the top of the ninth inning.But coming into a tie game is the next best thing. The Mariners are desperate for wins right now and having their main man on the mound certainly provided a good feeling. Sure enough, he retired the Athletics in order, and then took a seat in the dugout to watch Yuniesky Betancourt deliver a two-out, run-scoring, walk-off single into right-center field that lifted Seattle to a 6-5 victory in front of 26,194. "The guys are really happy in the clubhouse," a relieved manager John McLaren said after the three-hour, 28-minute, tug-of-war between two American League West rivals. "I feel good for them. This is well-deserved and hopefully we can build from this, start relaxing and play our kind of baseball." The style in the series finale was back-and-forth, as the teams scored on an every-other-time basis for the first eight innings. And then, in the ninth, Jose Guillen reached on a one-out single to left field and advanced to second on an infield out. After the Athletics intentionally walked Jose Vidro, Charlton Jimerson ran for Guillen at second and sprinted home when Betancourt lined a single off right-handed reliever Andrew Brown. And for the third time in their past 18 games, the Mariners celebrated. That is was Betancourt delivering the decisive blow was par for the course. He ranks first on the team with 14 game-winning RBIs and credited third-base coach Carlos Garcia for putting him in the right frame of mind. "Before getting into the batter's box, Carlos Garcia told me to 'stay in the strike zone,'" Betancourt said. "I fouled off the first pitch, but I got a good swing on the second pitch and it fell in." Asked why he has been so successful in these situations all season, Betancourt said it's because the opposing pitcher is not going to "pitch around me because I have a great hitter behind me [usually Ichiro Suzuki]. I try to be patient and be aggressive at the same time. I like those situations. I want to be in the center of it." He sent everyone home with a rare smile on their face, and so did young outfielder Adam Jones. The Athletics had gone ahead by a run in the seventh inning when Mike Piazza lined a pinch-hit, two-run single into left field off Mariners left-hander George Sherrill. All of a sudden it looked like Seattle's frustrations would grow even more. And the agony increased in the bottom of the seventh, when the Mariners put runners on second and third with two outs before fresh-armed Santiago Casilla replaced starter Dan Haren and induced Betancourt to ground out to shortstop. When McLaren sent Jeremy Reed up to bat for Jamie Burke to start the eighth inning, Oakland manager Bob Geren countered by bringing in left-hander Alan Embree. McLaren made another move, sending Jones up to bat for Reed. Jones drove an Embree fastball into the seats in right-center field for his second home run since being promoted to the Mariners last month and his 26th overall this season -- counting the 24 he hit for Triple-A Tacoma. "I have been watching the way he stays inside the ball during batting practice, and he hit a double to right-center the other day," McLaren said. "This kid is going to be a real, real good player. I don't know who was more excited, him or me." Jones was thrilled, to say the least.
"Great", he said when asked about the result of the at-bat. "Mac put me into a big situation and I was glad to be able to come through and help the team. I haven't gotten to play too much. The guys have been struggling pretty bad the past 2 1/2 weeks and now I hope we can ride this momentum for rest of the season and make it interesting."Well, as long as there is a mathematical chance, things could happen. As it is, the Mariners are 6 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the American League Wild Card race with 18 games remaining. "We have to believe in ourselves," Guillen said. "Not one guy, not two guys, not three guys. Everyone in here has to believe we can do it. All we can do is give all we've got and hope something good happens." Mariners right-hander Miguel Batista gave it all he had for six innings in the series finale, but his record remained at 13-11. The game included a most unusual event. Six-time Gold Glove winner Ichiro dropped a relatively routine fly ball in left-center field in the fifth inning. The fly ball would have scored a run anyway because there was a runner on third base, but it was another forgettable moment in a 2 1/2-week stretch of unbelievable heartbreak. Every Mariners starter had at least one hit off Athletics ace right-hander Haren, but Seattle had two runners thrown out at the plate and stranded six runners in scoring position. Batista's best inning was his last. He set the Athletics down in order in the sixth inning after allowing the leadoff batter to reach base in each of the first five innings -- usually a recipe for disaster. More times than not, he found a way out of trouble. And the Mariners found a way to win a game. Finally.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.