06/04/09 1:46 AM ET
Beltre belts, singles Mariners to win
Third baseman drives in three runs and records walk-off hit
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
The third baseman capped a big Wednesday with a hard-fought RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Mariners walked off with a 3-2 win over the Orioles before 18,650 on an 85-degree night at Safeco Field.
With the game tied, 2-2, and one out against Baltimore reliever Jim Johnson, Franklin Gutierrez tripled off the wall in left-center field, and Johnson intentionally walked Ichiro Suzuki and Russell Branyan to face Beltre, despite the fact that the third baseman had doubled and hit a two-run home run earlier in the game.
Beltre fouled off two straight full-count pitches clocked at 95 and 96 mph before punching a grounder past diving shortstop Cesar Izturis, and the Mariners celebrated on the outfield grass.
"It's always the proud side of you that comes when they walk two guys in front of you," Beltre said. "I was lucky enough to get it done."
Beltre's been getting a lot luckier lately, having finished this three-game set with Baltimore hitting .429 (6-for-14). Overall, he's batting .368 (21-for-57) over his last 13 games since snapping an 0-for-23 streak.
His season numbers -- .244 batting average, .275 on-base percentage, .355 slugging, four homers, 25 RBIs -- still look light for a typical Beltre season, which is why the Mariners seem excited for what's to come if he keeps swinging the bat the way he is now.
"You know he's got the talent," said David Aardsma, who got the win by pitching a scoreless top of the ninth inning. "It was just a matter of time before the hits started falling in for him. You can tell, just in the last week, that he's having more fun and really swinging it well.
"Adding a bat like that to the middle of the lineup is so huge for this team, and watching him foul off those 3-2 pitches in the ninth and winning the game for us, it means a lot for the rest of the season."
Beltre's game-winner only put an exclamation point on the host of dramatic proceedings in the Pacific Northwest on Wednesday.
For example, the Orioles had appeared to take a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Aubrey Huff blasted a ball into the seats beyond the right-field foul pole, but the umpires changed the ruling to a foul ball and then confirmed it foul after reviewing the play, marking the first overturned home run in Safeco Field history.
And after Luke Scott's solo home run off Seattle starter Jason Vargas in the second inning gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead, Ichiro added another Safeco first, singling in the bottom of the third to extend his franchise-record and career-long hitting streak to 27 games. Two batters later, Beltre hit a long home run to left to put Seattle up, 2-1.
That score stood until the top of the sixth, when singles by Adam Jones and Huff chased Vargas, and Scott doubled home a run off Mariners reliever Chris Jakubauskas to tie the game at 2-2.
Vargas continued his solid work for the Mariners, going 5 1/3 innings and giving up two runs on eight hits. But he impressed Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu by wiggling out of trouble in the third and fourth with key double-play balls and made a big pickoff at first base of Nolan Reimold to erase a leadoff runner with nobody out in the fifth.
"I kind of struggled a little when I got ahead in the count early," Vargas said. "But we did a great job of battling and came up big late."
In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Orioles elected to walk Branyan intentionally to load the bases with two out and left starter Brad Bergesen in despite the damage Beltre had done earlier, but Bergesen got Beltre to ground out on a comebacker on a 2-1 count to keep the score knotted.
Walking him in the ninth didn't prove as successful, and a big reason for that was the fact that Beltre did not go after a similar 2-1 pitch from Johnson.
"That's a step in the right direction," Wakamatsu said. "That's the stuff we're talking about. He's trying as hard as anybody out there, and Johnson has absolutely great stuff. I mean, it's 96 and dropping off the table, and to have an at-bat and battle and give your team a win is a credit to Adrian."
For Beltre, it's simply been a case of getting his confidence back.
"It's always nice when you help the team win," Beltre said. "Especially twice in one night."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.