Bloomquist delivers winner for Seattle
Home runs by Beltre, Sexson precede walk-off single
SEATTLE -- It wasn't so much that the Mariners overcame a four-run deficit on Tuesday night against the Blue Jays but the unique manner in which the events unfolded.First it was a home run to right field that a confused Adrian Beltre barely saw. Then, with Seattle down by a run in the bottom of the eighth, it was the struggling and power-deficient Richie Sexson who drew his bat back and unleashed the swing his team and Seattle fans have been waiting more than a month to see -- knocking his first homer since May 24 into the left-field stands to tie the game and wake up a Safeco Field crowd. And finally, it was utility man Willie Bloomquist lining a ball into the left-center-field gap with two on in the ninth inning to complete the comeback and send 24,586 fans home with a walk-off 7-6 win. "Well I just was kinda hoping it wasn't going to curve back and hook to the left fielder," said Bloomquist, who added that the pitch was a slider. "I was hoping it was going to stay straight there and fortunately it did and got in the gap ... obviously you play the game to win, and so it's still an exciting moment and a lot of fun." With the score tied 6-6, Raul Ibanez opened the ninth inning with a walk. He was then sacrificed by Jose Vidro to second base. Toronto intentionally walked Beltre before replacing Scott Downs on the mound with Shawn Camp, as Bloomquist came to the plate for what would be the game's final at-bat. After several comebacks that have fallen just short this season, the unlikely turnaround finally went Seattle's way and allowed it to avoid a second straight loss to the Blue Jays. "Even though in our situation, guys are still playing hard and not giving up," Bloomquist said. "So we're still going to play hard and do the best we can to win every game we can." But while Bloomquist's heroics sparked a Mariners rush onto the field, the plays that put him in that position were equally captivating. With Seattle down 6-3 in the seventh, Beltre hit a line shot to right field. But he then paused near the batter's box, as if unsure of what he had just done, before lurching forward toward first base as the ball barely disappeared over the wall. "I swung, I knew I made contact but I had no idea where the ball was," he said. "And I was just looking for it to see if I can see it, I heard the crowd kinda get into it. ... I saw the ball going to right field. A little late, but I saw it." Beltre also had a seat in the dugout to see Sexson's shot to left an inning later, a hit that the Mariners desperately needed with a lineup that favors singles. Sexson was not around in the clubhouse after to discuss his breakthrough, but Beltre was happy for his teammate. "I felt great for him because he's been swinging the bat really well the last three weeks and had nothing to show for it," he said. "He gets some hits here and there, but the fact that he can now relax and hit the ball somewhere, he got the home run out of the way -- a lot of home runs are going to come after this one." Manager Jim Riggleman had similar sentiments. "You feel good for all of them," he said. "[They've been] ... competing so hard and not getting anything for it ... you just really feel good for them." The late-inning chaos overshadowed what had been an interesting night for Mariners pitching and a rather controlling performance from the Blue Jays until the seventh. Ryan Rowland-Smith, a reliever starting in place of the injured Felix Hernandez, looked like the right choice through the first three innings on Tuesday in his first Major League start. He allowed just one single during the time and conserved his pitches. But things fell apart in the fourth. Rowland-Smith started by allowing a single, a walk, a double and a hit batsman to give Toronto its first run and load the bases with no outs. After a Scott Rolen popup for an out, Toronto scored its second run of the inning on an odd fielder's choice. Gregg Zaun ripped a line drive into left field just past the leap of shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, but Vernon Wells froze at second base on the hit and was forced out at third while the lead runner scored. A single by Adam Lind brought home a third run. "It wasn't so much physically as more say, just facing the guys a second time through the lineup," said Rowland-Smith, who mentioned he was nervous before the game. "Not that I was trying to do too much, but trying to do different things than I was doing the first time through." The Seattle offense was gifted two runs in the fourth thanks to an error from Blue Jays pitcher Jesse Litsch and three base hits. But when Mariners second baseman Jose Lopez showcased his own generosity in the sixth by letting a grounder slip between his legs, the Blue Jays jumped on the opportunity and recorded a walk and two hits in succession to pile on three more runs for a 6-2 lead.
Jesse Baumgartner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.