Rookie Clement delivers walk-off win
First hit of the night a game-winning home run against Texas
SEATTLE -- Mariners manager John McLaren talked before the game about the thunder in rookie Jeff Clement's bat.For the second time in three days, Clement delivered a stunning clap of thunder in a huge situation for the Mariners. This one was so exciting that it had injured shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt running around the bases with Clement. Clement crushed a two-out, two-run home run off reliever Mike Wood in the bottom of the ninth inning that carried the Mariners to a 6-4 victory over the Rangers on Friday night at Safeco Field. The home run was Clement's second since being called up to the Major Leagues. He also had a game-tying pinch-hit home run in the ninth inning on Wednesday against the Indians in the second game of a doubleheader. "It's been great just to contribute to the team," Clement said. "When I first got here we were struggling, so I'm just happy to do something with the opportunity that I've been getting." Adrian Beltre led off the winning rally against Wood with a single through the left side. Raul Ibanez then lined out to left and Jose Guillen hit a slow grounder to third, moving Beltre to second. That brought up Clement, who started at designated hitter for the second straight game and was 0-for-3 with a walk in his first four plate appearances. This time he worked the count to 2-1 before driving the ball deep over the center-field fence for his first Major League walk-off home run. Betancourt was so excited that he sprinted out to second base and started following Clement around the basepaths. "Don't ask me what he was doing," McLaren said. "That's one of the funniest things I've ever seen in my life," winning pitcher J.J. Putz said. "It looked like Hank Aaron breaking the home run record." Betancourt explained later that he thought Clement had hit a double and was ready to congratulate his teammate at second base. The rest of his teammates were waiting for him at home plate. They later gave him the traditional beer shower in the clubhouse. "What a great win," McLaren said. "Jeff has come through with some big hits. He's got some definite thunder in his bat. He has let his presence be known. We've always been extra high on him, but now we're getting to see it firsthand." The Mariners have now won eight of their last 12 games after their 43rd comeback victory of the season. "To be out of it and still have the enthusiasm we have is special," McLaren said. "It's in our blood," said Jose Vidro, who came off the bench for a game-tying single in the eighth. "This is what we do. We've got to finish the season. We have to be honest to our organization and our teams. This season is over on Sunday, not three days before." The Mariners trailed, 2-0, going into the sixth and 4-3 going into the eighth before coming back to win this game. They had just two hits in the first five innings, but took the lead in the sixth on a two-run double by Kenji Johjima and a run-scoring single by Mike Morse. Travis Metcalf hit a two-run home run in the seventh off starter Jeff Weaver to put the Rangers ahead. But McLaren went to his expanded bench in the bottom of the eighth to manufacture the tying run against Rangers reliever Joaquin Benoit. Ben Broussard, pinch-hitting for Morse, lined a two-out single and pinch-runner Charlton Jimmerson then stole second. After Jose Lopez walked, Vidro pinch-hit for Willie Bloomquist and singled to tie the game. "It's nice to have a 38-man roster," McLaren joked. Weaver did not get the victory, but still pitched eight strong innings in his longest outing since a shutout against the White Sox on Aug. 12. He allowed four runs on nine hits, did not walk a batter and struck out five. "Weaver did a great job," McLaren said. "That was a quality start. I'm happy for him." Lost in the postgame celebration was another milestone for Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki. He had two singles in the game and now has 200 singles on the season. He also had 225 singles in 2004 and remains the only player in Major League history to have at least 200 singles in a season. Rangers shortstop Michael Young is another guy who got 200 hits this season and on Friday expressed his admiration for what Ichiro has done. "He's got some physical gifts but I love the way he stays consistent with his approach," Young said. "We play against them 20 times a year, so I've seen him run into streaks where he's not locked in but he stays the same. There are no major overhauls. That shows you he believes in himself." Suzuki has been doing it that way for the Mariners over the past seven years. Clement is just getting started. But it has been a thunderous start.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.