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Originally published July 19, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 22, 2007 at 9:07 PM

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A walk in the park almost turns scary for M's

One thing the Mariners should have learned from their opponents' previous visit here in June is not to count on anything until the final...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Friday

M's at Toronto, 4:07 p.m., Ch. 11/KOMO 1000 AM

Pitchers: M's Miguel Batista (9-7, 4.38) vs. Jesse Litsch (2-3, 4.02)

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Never did it seem this game would come down to a battle of wills between a steely-nerved hitter and a submarine-armed reliever.

Not when the Mariners were on cruise control by the sixth inning of a game that suddenly came undone by the seventh. By the time Adrian Beltre stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two out in a tied eighth inning, his team was hoping desperately to avoid a second straight defeat to the Baltimore Orioles.

That it did, with Beltre outlasting reliever Chad Bradford for an eight-pitch walk that forced home the decisive run of a 6-5 victory to put Seattle closer to the AL West lead than it has been in two months. The Mariners trail the division-leading Los Angeles Angels by only 1 ½ games after Beltre and the offense bailed out some shoddy late defensive play.

"I really don't like his delivery," Beltre said of Bradford, whose knuckles seem to scrape the pitcher's mound as he delivers the ball. "I'm just trying to get a good at-bat, get ahead in the count, maybe get something up."

It's a testament to how things have changed for this once free-swinging club that it can actually draw a walk in a key situation. The Mariners will never be confused with the Oakland Athletics of "Moneyball" fame, but they'd taken advantage of some wild Baltimore pitching all night and Beltre did himself a favor by forcing Bradford to throw strikes.

Friday

M's at Toronto, 4:07 p.m., Ch. 11/KOMO 1000 AM

Pitchers: M's Miguel Batista (9-7, 4.38) vs. Jesse Litsch (2-3, 4.02)

The crowd of 28,550 at Safeco Field held its breath as Beltre jumped ahead 3-1 in the count, took a strike, then fouled off two pitches. Bradford's next offering was so far outside that even the Mariners at their ball-chasing worst could not have been tempted to chase.

"He was kind of wild, so when it was 3-1, 2-0, I was going to take it," Beltre said. "After that, I tried to make contact. And then, he threw me one that I couldn't swing at."

J.J. Putz tossed a perfect ninth for his 28th save in as many tries to make a winner out of reliever Sean Green, who had halted the damage in a three-run Baltimore seventh and worked a scoreless eighth as well.

The decisive eighth inning began for Seattle with a Yuniesky Betancourt double off Orioles reliever Danys Baez. Betancourt had been involved in a clumsy fielding play in the seventh when he and left fielder Ben Broussard allowed a Corey Patterson blooper to drop between them for a single.

That loaded the bases with one out and Nick Markakis delivered a sacrifice fly off Seattle lefty George Sherrill to tie the score at 5. The miscommunication between shortstop Betancourt and Broussard may have cost Mariners starter Jarrod Washburn the victory in a game he led 5-1 in the sixth.

"He said he didn't hear me," Broussard said of how he'd tried to call the Spanish-speaking Betancourt off the ball. "I don't know because it's kind of tough to talk to him about it. I didn't hear him, but it's loud and you're running in and everything's happening at a million miles an hour."

Broussard had actually put Washburn in the driver's seat to win his fourth game in his last five starts. He clubbed a solo homer in the fifth inning off Orioles starter Daniel Cabrera, capping a surge that saw Seattle score five unanswered runs after Baltimore took a 1-0 lead in the second on a Jay Payton long ball.

Washburn has been through this before. He had a 4-0 lead against the Orioles and Cabrera by the fifth inning of a June 6 game at Safeco. A Baltimore five-spot in the fifth inning later and Washburn was headed to a 9-5 defeat.

Things didn't happen quite so quickly this time around, but they were surprising enough that the Mariners were caught off-guard.

Mariners manager John McLaren admitted after the game that he might have left Washburn out a little too long in the seventh. Washburn was allowed to face right-handed hitting Chris Gomez and served up a run-scoring single on his 111h pitch to make it 5-4.

McLaren also allowed Broussard, who was 2 for 4 at the plate and due up in the seventh, to remain in left instead of replacing him with Jason Ellison. The manager wasn't going to remove Broussard until he'd had another at-bat — standard procedure for the team all season with three innings to go.

But Broussard looked somewhat shaky chasing after a Payton liner that dropped in for a double and truly got the big seventh inning started.

"I'm just glad we were able to get the win," Broussard said. "I'm bummed that [Washburn] wasn't able to get it. It's just one of those deals. But I'm glad we were at least able to salvage it and come out on top."

McLaren had seen his club score some second-inning runs after two Cabrera walks and another in the third on a wild pitch. He was relieved to see Beltre take advantage of Bradford's wild appearance to save the night from being ruined.

"We never get down," he said. "There were some things that went against us tonight. But we hung in there. From what I understand, in years past things like this would have cost them the game."

Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or gbaker@seattletimes.com.

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