© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
08/31/08 6:45 PM ET
Five-run inning, Beltre boost Mariners
Third baseman's two homers, Corcoran's rebound cap sweep
By Andrew Gribble / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- After watching his eighth consecutive ball sail wide of the plate, Roy Corcoran collected the ball from catcher Kenji Johjima, tossed it aside and waited for pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre to come talk to him. Corcoran knew what Stottlemyre was going to tell him because he had already been saying it in his head over and over again. "Throw it down the middle," Corcoran recalled telling himself after the Mariners' 6-4 victory over the Indians on Sunday at Progressive Field. The Louisiana-bred reliever, as he was watching his second career save opportunity dissolve, just needed to hear it again. "After that, I felt a little better," Corcoran said. "I needed that. I needed him to tell me to get my mind right." With his mind right, Corcoran settled down to strike out Victor Martinez before inducing a bases-loaded, self-ricocheted double-play ball from Ryan Garko to preserve the Mariners' unnecessarily dramatic win over the Indians before 35,376 fans. The victory wrapped up the Mariners' second sweep of the season and seventh win in their last nine games. Seattle never trailed throughout the entire series, though there were few moments where it had complete control of the once-surging, now slumping Indians. Sunday's ninth inning, to the delight of a relieved Corcoran, just served as a feel-good finale of sorts to a tightly played series between two clubs long out of playoff contention. "Thank God," Corcoran said. That may have been the same reaction the Mariners had when they finally cracked the Indians for a big inning Sunday. After Adrian Beltre and the Indians' Shin-Soo Choo traded solo homers in the second inning, the Mariners appeared to take complete command with a five-run fifth inning thanks to two Tribe defensive miscues, but also some timely hitting of their own. With runners on second and third, courtesy of Indians starter Zach Jackson's throwing error on Miguel Cairo's sacrifice bunt attempt, Ichiro Suzuki brought Jeff Clement home with a soft single to right. Cairo came around to score when Martinez muffed a pickoff attempt at first base to make the score 3-1. After Raul Ibanez's RBI single, Beltre capped the inning with a two-run homer -- his second of the game -- to give the Mariners a five-run advantage. "Belly had a big day," manager Jim Riggleman said of the third baseman, who notched his third multihomer game of the season and the 19th of his career. "He's a great player, a tough guy, and he's a leader." The 6-1 lead looked especially safe on this day, especially with the way Ryan Rowland-Smith was dealing. Primarily forcing the Tribe to pound the ball into the ground in just his seventh start of the season, the Australian left-hander dodged trouble throughout, going 6 1/3 innings and scattering seven hits. He struck out two and walked just one before he was chased in the seventh inning after Andy Marte's RBI single made it 6-2. "He's done a great job," Riggleman said of Rowland-Smith, who has been bounced between the bullpen and starting rotation since July. "If he goes out and has a bad outing or two, we're not going to lose faith in him." With Rowland-Smith out, the Mariners' bullpen seemed like it was trying its best to lose the big lead. After escaping a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning, Randy Messenger loaded the bases with no one out in the eighth inning before he was replaced by Miguel Batista, who induced what appeared to be a double-play grounder by Franklin Gutierrez. But after catching the ball for the force at second, Jose Lopez launched the ball into the Mariners' dugout, allowing the Indians to tack on two runs and draw within striking distance at 6-4. That's the lead Corcoran, working in place of unavailable everyday closer J.J. Putz, was left to protect. "It's definitely a different feeling," Riggleman said. "That's why closers are special people. It takes a special person to get that third out in the ninth. The expectations are high and the pressure is high." The pressure got even higher when Corcoran missed with four straight fastballs to Grady Sizemore and four more to Jamey Carroll, bringing the winning run to the plate. "I got into the situation because of me," Corcoran said. "It wasn't because of anybody else. It wasn't because of the umpire. I was just missing my spots." But Corcoran knew he couldn't miss to the free-swinging Martinez. Corcoran painted the outside corner to induce two strikes before dropping his first curveball of the inning past a swinging Martinez for the first out. With the bases loaded after a walk to Jhonny Peralta, Corcoran made what he called his best pitch of the inning to Garko. The Indians designated hitter slapped it right back at Corcoran, who blindly deflected it over his head toward second base with his glove. "It's kind of hard to tip the ball and have to turn around and see what happens," Corcoran said. But Corcoran immediately liked what he saw, as Yuniesky Betancourt gloved the deflection and tossed it to Lopez for the force at second. Lopez's throw beat the slow-footed Garko in plenty of time to put the wraps on Corcoran's tenuous save with your standard 1-6-4-3 double play. "The Mariners," Riggleman said, "finally got a break."
Andrew Gribble is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.