Mariners 8, Angels 7, 12 innings
SEATTLE (AP)—For the Mariners, the chase is on.
Yuniesky Betancourt grounded a single through the left side of a five-man infield to score Adrian Beltre with one out in the bottom of the 12th inning and send second-place Seattle to a wild 8-7 victory over the first-place Angels on Wednesday night.
Betancourt, facing a five-man infield for the first time, singled sharply between third base and shortstop off Justin Speier (0-2). Former Angel Jose Guillen, who had three hits, led his teammates in chasing the jubilant Betancourt around first base and then rode the shortstop’s back partly across the infield after one of Seattle’s most important wins of a surprising season.
“I knew they were right behind me,” Betancourt said through an interpreter of his teammates and their celebration. “I took off my batting helmet because if I don’t take it off, it hurts a lot more.”
The Mariners won two of three from the Angels and pulled back to within three games of the AL West leaders despite a rare blown save by All-Star closer J.J. Putz and a scary collision that left ace starter Felix Hernandez with sore ribs.
And hitting help is on the way. Adam Jones, who has been starring at Triple-A Tacoma, will join Seattle on Friday, manager John McLaren said.
But only after a deep exhale.
“That’s as good a game as I’ve been involved in,” said McLaren, who is in his 28th year as a professional coach or player.
Los Angeles lost for the second time in seven games. The Angels had won seven of the first nine games between the teams this season.
“Our focus is still in-house,” manager Mike Scioscia said about the charging Mariners.
Beltre led off the 12th with an infield single off Speier. One out later, Jamie Burke was grazed on the elbow by a 1-1 fastball.
“The only thing that made me mad was hitting the catcher,” Speier said of Burke.
Jose Lopez then chopped an infield single high off the plate to load the bases. Scioscia brought Gary Matthews Jr. in from center field to create a five-man infield for the second time in extra innings.
“I haven’t played infield since college,” said Matthews, who was drafted as a shortstop out of high school.
Eric O’Flaherty (7-0) got the final out of the top of the 12th as Seattle won for the fifth time in six games.
Hernandez allowed six hits and four runs in eight innings. The 21-year-old struck out seven and walked none for the first time this season.
The Angels’ first two runs came in the fourth, which included a huge scare for Hernandez and the Mariners.
Chone Figgins led off with a double and stopped at third on a single by Orlando Cabrera. Vladimir Guerrero then hit a check-swing chopper that Hernandez and Ben Broussard both ran toward and looked skyward to field. Broussard’s right shoulder plowed into Hernandez’s left side as the ball caromed off Hernandez’s glove and into foul ground for an RBI infield double.
Hernandez fell to the ground on his back and stayed there for about a minute, wincing and rocking. After a four-minute delay, Hernandez pounded the ball into his glove and got back atop the mound. He retired Garret Anderson on an RBI groundout that advanced Guerrero to third. Then Ichiro Suzuki ran up on Casey Kotchman’s fly ball, caught it, and in one motion threw out Guerrero trying to score. That kept Seattle up 5-2.
“That was unbelievable. After that it hurt. It still hurts,” Hernandez said.
“But when they looked at me, I said, ‘I’m fine! You’re not going to take me out of this game.”’
The Angels scored three times in the top of the ninth off Putz, who had allowed one run in 25 innings entering Wednesday. After Guerrero’s single scored Cabrera, Matthews sent Putz’s chest-high, outside pitch to the opposite field into the Angels’ bullpen beyond the left-field fence to tie the game at 7.
Matthews pumped his fist and screamed over the gasps of the stunned home crowd as he rounded the bases for his third home run in two nights. He had not homered in 35 games before that.
Matthews is now 8-for-12 with three home runs against Putz, who’s blown just two save chances in 33 opportunities.
“To come back and win, that’s huge,” Putz said. “I know there is two months left in the season and the difference between five games and three games doesn’t seem like much. But it is.”
Mariners 1B Richie Sexson struck out looking as a pinch-hitter with two on to end the seventh, then grounded out leading off the 10th. McLaren hinted that Sexson, a right-handed hitter, would be back starting on Friday against Boston LHP Jon Lester. Sexson is 2-for-21 (.095) on the homestand, on which he’s been booed.