Mariners 3, White Sox 2
SEATTLE (AP)—So far, the Seattle Mariners are looking far different than the one that has finished last in the AL West the past three seasons.
Yuniesky Betancourt hit a tiebreaking homer in the seventh inning and Miguel Batista allowed two solo home runs and little else in 7 1-3 innings of the surging Mariners’ 3-2 victory over the sagging Chicago White Sox on Wednesday.
It was the seventh win in eight games for Seattle—all since a six-game losing streak during a bizarre, weather-plagued April.
Now, after Jose Guillen also homered and Raul Ibanez had an RBI double that scored Jose Vidro before Betancourt’s homer, maybe it’s time to say it: This isn’t the same, wilting bunch that has finished last in the AL West for three consecutive seasons.
“This is definitely a different team,” said Ibanez, who had four RBIs in the two-game series sweep of a White Sox team that has lost four consecutive games.
“It’s definitely a different club offensively. Vidro and Guillen definitely make our lineup more legitimate. … You wouldn’t think two guys would add that much, but they have.”
Betancourt’s addition has been power, following an offseason of weight training that made his upper body noticeably larger. He has three home runs this year. The shortstop known more for his slick fielding than his bat had nine in 217 career games entering the season.
Betancourt insists he’s not becoming a power hitter.
“Yeah, I’m going to keep saying that,” he said. “But if I keep making good contact, the ball is going to fly.”
It did when he hit a 1-0 fastball into Seattle’s bullpen beyond left field off rookie John Danks, who looked to Safeco Field’s closed roof in exasperation.
Inside the White Sox dugout, “the air went out,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “You know, like, ‘Wow, what does it take to win games?”’
Danks knows the feeling. The ninth overall selection in the 2003 draft by Texas, who came in a trade that sent Brandon McCarthy to the Rangers, allowed six hits and two walks in 6 2-3 innings. He struck out four. Yet Danks (0-4) still doesn’t have a win in five major league starts.
“It’s a shame when the kid goes out there and pitches the way he pitched and we don’t help him,” said Guillen, the manager of the worst-hitting team in the major leagues by far, with a .221 average.
Chicago had scored only two runs in Danks’ first four starts. The White Sox equaled that with the homers by Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko off Batista (3-2), who surrendered only three singles besides that.
Guillen answered Dye’s home run in the second by hitting Danks’ first pitch in the bottom half off the top of the scoreboard in left-center, his third homer of the season. Danks slapped his glove and yelled at himself after the pitch.
But Konerko answered that by going with a low, outside pitch—“my best pitch of the season, probably,” Batista said—and lofting it into the first row of bleachers beyond right field to make it 2-1 in the fourth.
Danks cruised through the fifth inning having allowed only two hits. But with two outs in the sixth, Vidro singled and Ibanez hit a liner down the left-field line. As Mackowiak prepared for the ball to reach him near the corner, it changed direction while banging off the section of box seats that juts out toward the field. By the time Mackowiak retrieved the ball, Vidro was on his way home to tie the game.
“It’s the way things have been going. It doesn’t surprise you that it hits the wall like that and dies right there,” said Mackowiak, a former veteran of the NL’s Pittsburgh Pirates who played his first two games in left field at Safeco Field this week.
“I think we are kind of finding our rhythm,” Putz said. “Maybe our identity.”
Guillen said he won’t make major changes to his lineup or do much else except keep faith in his struggling hitters. “Who’s to blame? Everybody,” Guillen said. “I blame me. I blame Walk (Greg Walker, the hitting coach). I blame the lineup.” … The crowd of 16,555 was the second-smallest ever inside Safeco Field, which opened in 1999. The game was originally supposed to be a night game, but was recently switched to the early afternoon to allow Seattle to travel to Boston for a makeup game Thursday night.