SEATTLE – The bodies sprawled across the infield and balls ricocheting off arms, legs and the outfield walls were mere preliminaries to what occurred deep into the night Wednesday at Safeco Field.
The Seattle Mariners scored on Yuniesky Betancourt’s bases-loaded single with one out in the 12th inning to beat the Los Angeles Angels 8-7, winning a game so intense that it seemed like the division race is being determined now and not in late September.
The Mariners delivered another big hit after the game.
Manager John McLaren announced that outfield prospect Adam Jones would be called up from Class AAA Tacoma and be in uniform Friday when the Mariners begin a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox
McLaren wouldn’t say how Jones would be used, although there was speculation last month that he would play right field with Raul Ibanez moving to DH and Jose Guillen shifting from right field to left.
“I would prefer not to talk about Adam’s role at this time,” McLaren said.
The move could shove DH Jose Vidro into a bench role, but also give the Mariners much-needed speed. That has been a missing ingredient on a team that moved within three games of the first-place Angels in the American League West Division.
To win two out of three against the Angels, it took a 12th-inning rally in which the Mariners didn’t get the ball out of the infield to load the bases with one out. Facing right-hander Justin Speier and with center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. standing between first and second base as the Angels played with five infielders and two outfielders, Betancourt hit the ball through the only hole in the defense.
He grounded it between third base and shortstop and into left field, easily scoring Adrian Beltre with the winning run.
“That’s as good a game as I’ve been involved in in years,” McLaren said. “We did what we set out to do, and that’s to win the series. It was against the team in front of us and it was an extremely big win.”
The winning hit overcame a rare notch on J.J. Putz’s blown save list. Putz entered the ninth with a 7-4 lead, then fell victim to the Angels’ second comeback of the game.
They had overcome the Mariners’ early 5-0 lead by making the score 5-4 after Garret Anderson’s two-run homer in the seventh inning, then rocked Putz with four hits and three runs in the ninth.
Gary Matthews Jr. delivered the biggest hit, a two-out, two-run opposite-field homer to left on a pitch that Putz left up and over the plate.
That blow robbed Mariners starter Felix Hernandez of what was becoming one of his most impressive victories of the season, not because of his dominance on the mound but because of his tenacity just to stay in the game.
Hernandez collided hard with first baseman Ben Broussard while chasing Vladimir Guerrero’s high chopper between the mound and first base, and he lay motionless on the field for several seconds.
“Those were two big bodies that connected right there,” McLaren said. “I was extremely concerned for both of them.”
Hernandez threw several warmup pitches to prove he hadn’t dislodged anything, then went back to dissecting the Angels.
They got to him only twice, in the fourth inning when they scored twice and in the seventh when Garrett Anderson hit a two-run homer.
That blow came shortly after Mariners pitching coach Rafael Chaves and trainer Rick Griffin ran to the mound before the seventh, having seen something in Hernandez’s warmup pitches they didn’t like.
Hernandez intensely shooed them away and, after the homer by Anderson, retired the next six Angels he faced.
“Felix was a lion out there,” McLaren said. “He took a pretty good hit. He wanted it bad. He was throwing as hard the last pitch as he has this whole season.”
Both teams had chances to score in the 10th, the Mariners getting a huge opportunity after Kenji Johjima hit a one-out double. Angels reliever Scot Shields threw a wild pitch that allowed pinch-runner Willie Bloomquist to reach third.
That gave McLaren a chance to be creative with Jose Lopez at the plate, and it blew up on him. McLaren called for a squeeze bunt, but Lopez missed and Bloomquist became stranded between home and third for the second out. Lopez then lined back to Shields for the third out.
“I’m a gambler,” McLaren said. “You’re going to see it again.”
Both teams threatened in the 11th before the Mariners got another chance in the 12th. Beltre grounded in infield single deep in the hole at shortstop and, after Richie Sexson struck out, catcher Jamie Burke was hit by a pitch. Lopez followed that with a chopper off the plate for another infield hit that loaded the bases.
Then, with the Angels putting five players on the infield, Betancourt foiled that ploy with his grounder into left field to win the game.