M's grit it out in 12
A season's worth of Mariners' hopes and dreams had nearly crash-landed on the grass turf along with Felix Hernandez in a scary fourth-inning...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Boston at Seattle, 7:05 p.m., FSN/KOMO (1000 AM)
A season's worth of Mariners' hopes and dreams had nearly crash-landed on the grass turf along with Felix Hernandez in a scary fourth-inning collision.
Hernandez ran smack dab into newly-installed Mariners first baseman Ben Broussard as the pair chased a high chopper to the right side. After several breathless moments of writhing on the ground in pain, Hernandez got up, dusted himself off and gritted out eight impressive innings.
But the Mariners would have to overcome an even more staggering jolt Wednesday night before this marathon 8-7 win in 12 innings over the division leading Los Angeles Angels was complete. That came in the ninth, when Mariners closer J.J. Putz watched a three-run lead vanish, the final two markers delivered on a two-out home run by Gary Matthews Jr.
Once again, as Hernandez had done so many innings earlier, the Mariners dusted themselves off and persevered. They survived two near-scoring threats by the Angels and a botched squeeze attempt of their own before Yuniesky Betancourt won it on a bases-loaded single through the left side of the infield.
"It was real emotional for us," said Betancourt, chased around the infield by his celebrating teammates after the hit. "It was a game we had to win and I felt I was going to win it."
A crowd of 34,471 at Safeco Field, riding a roller coaster of emotions all night in the home team's biggest game in years, erupted in thunderous applause as the game ended. They had seen their team take an early 5-0 lead off Angels starter Jered Weaver, only to have to pull it out so dramatically after 3 hours, 51 minutes.
The victory moved the Mariners just three games behind the Angels in the AL West and left them only a half-game back in the wild-card race.
After the game, the Mariners announced that Class AAA outfielder Adam Jones will join the club Friday when they open a series against Boston. He will take the roster spot of fourth outfielder Jason Ellison, though the team won't comment on where Jones will play until after the team's off-day today.
Putz looked on hopefully as Adrian Beltre led the decisive rally off with an infield single off reliever Justin Speier, then advanced to second when Jamie Burke was hit by a pitch. Jose Lopez loaded the bases with one out with an infield single on a high chopper before Betancourt came through and made a winner of lefty reliever Eric O'Flaherty (7-0).
"Being five back is a lot more than three back," Putz said of the two-game difference between victory and defeat in the standings. "These guys just never caved in, and you can't say enough about the job they did.
"A win's a win, and I think this one is a lot bigger than a lot of the other ones."
Putz was most upset with costing Hernandez the game after he'd fought so hard to hold on to the lead. Hernandez shook off the collision with Broussard, then fought to keep his composure in the seventh inning after a two-run homer by Garret Anderson narrowed Seattle's lead to 5-4.
But Hernandez, admittedly angry with himself, fanned four of the next six hitters after that.
"I was angry after that homer," Hernandez said. "It was a 5-4 game, and I'm just like 'I'm not going to let them score any more.'"
Hernandez's offense got him back the three-run cushion as Jose Guillen and Ichiro drove in runs with singles in the seventh and eighth.
But Putz, who'd saved 31 of 32 this season, was greeted with a pair of singles and a run to lead off the ninth. After a double-play grounder by Anderson, Casey Kotchman singled to left center to bring up Matthews, who'd entered the night 7 for 11 lifetime with two doubles and two home runs off Putz.
"It happens," Putz said after his second blown save in a week. "You always say in the ninth inning, make the guy beat you the other way and he beat me the other way."
Putz said Matthews had previously gotten to him on balls pulled to right field. This time, he drove the 1-1 pitch over the left-field wall, stunning the crowd and sending the Angels leaping to their feet in the dugout.
A tense bullpen battle ensued from there, and the Mariners bent, but never broke.
Mariners manager John McLaren said he'd never thought of having his closer intentionally walk Matthews despite his numbers — especially with first base occupied.
"We have the best reliever in baseball," he said.
McLaren lauded Hernandez's effort as the gutsiest he's shown yet, saying the 21-year-old showed the "heart of a lion" and deserved a better fate. The game nearly ended two innings earlier than it did when McLaren called for a suicide squeeze with Jose Lopez up and pinch-runner Willie Bloomquist at third, but Lopez failed to get the bunt down.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read his daily blog at www.seattletimes.com/Mariners
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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