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08/14/08 3:04 AM ET
Balentien's blast lifts Mariners in 12
Designated hitter's three-run homer ends four-game slide
By Jim Street / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- The last swing Mariners rookie Wladimir Balentien took on Wednesday night made up for all those swings and misses he had during four of his at-bats against the Angels. He sent a towering fly ball to straightaway center field that landed behind the fence for a three-run home run, catapulting the Mariners to a hard-fought, 10-7 victory over the Angels in a 12-inning battle in front of 42,754 at Angel Stadium. "He was having a rough night and [hitting coach Jose Castro] and I were talking about it," Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said. "On some of those [at-bats], he was getting himself out. He had a strike on him in that last at-bat, and then did what he does. When he gets the ball up in the air like that, it goes a long way." That one certainly did, going about 100 feet up and more than 400 feet out. Balentien struck out in the second, fourth, seventh and 10th innings -- the "Golden Sombrero" -- and grounded out to end the eighth inning. "It had been a rough night, but I never gave up," he said. "I stayed with it, stayed focused and got an opportunity to do something and did it." He was wearing a huge smile, not a sombrero, in the visiting clubhouse afterward, savoring his sixth home run of the season, one that resulted in one of the most improbable wins of the season for Seattle (46-74). The Mariners scored a run in the eighth inning to tie the game, fell behind by two runs in the bottom of the inning, and then rallied for three runs in the ninth against Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez, who was going for his 47th save of the season. Instead, he absorbed his fifth blown save and ended a streak of 20 consecutive save conversions against the Mariners. Jeremy Reed delivered a tying, two-run double into right-center, and Raul Ibanez followed with a go-ahead single to center field to knock Rodriguez out of the game. Just like that, the Mariners had done something few other teams have done this season -- overcome the Angels in the ninth inning. But their reward would have to wait a few more innings as Seattle closer J.J. Putz surrendered a tying leadoff home run to Mark Teixeira in the bottom of the ninth. The still-not-quite-right Putz has seven saves and seven blown saves this season after going 40-for-42 a year ago. But the "BS" (blown save) behind Putz's name in the box score was overshadowed by the Mariners' tenacity. "If we had lost, I would have tipped my hat to them, and if we had won, I would have tipped my hat to them," Riggleman said. "They really competed their tails off and never gave up. It sounds a little ridiculous, where we are in the standings, but that game right there is what we have done so many times this year, only to have an excruciating way to lose them. Tonight, we finally held them down and found a way to win. I'm proud of them for that." A glance at the American League West standings tells you the gap between the first-place Angels and last-place Mariners stands at 29 1/2 games. Another way of looking at it is four runs. That's the run differential in their 11 head-to-head games this season, although the Angels have a 7-4 edge in the season series. "That tells you they find a way to win and I think that's what we have to do and not just be satisfied playing with teams of that caliber," said Ibanez, who went 4-for-5 with two doubles and his 19th home run and drove in three runs. "Riggleman has been stressing that every game, to come back and win. He has told us, 'You guys are capable of being a really good team and you should go out there with the intention of winning.' " It will take more games like the one played Wednesday night for the team's confidence level to climb. The first six innings featured a pitching duel between right-handers Felix Hernandez and Ervin Santana. Hernandez, and the Mariners, had a scary moment in the fourth inning. Hernandez somehow got his glove up in time to snare the wicked smash hit by Chone Figgins. Hernandez went to the ground, got up, and was smiling as he walked off the field and into the visiting dugout. He pitched three more innings, departing after seven innings and Seattle down by one run. Jeff Clement's clutch two-out, run-scoring single off Angels right-hander Scot Shields in the eighth inning kept Hernandez from losing his eighth game. He remained 7-7 and has nine no-decisions. And one sore left ankle. He tweaked his left ankle after fielding a grounder toward first base in the seventh inning but finished the frame and was replaced by reliever Cesar Jimenez. "Felix did a heck of a job," Riggleman said. "His ankle is still a little tender, but at that point of the game, we took him out, not because of the ankle."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.