SEATTLE (AP)—The Mariners may have found an unlikely Mr. August. They also hope they have discovered a Mr. 2008—and beyond.
“This was one of the most enjoyable nights of the year,” Betancourt said through an interpreter, after leading Seattle to within 2 1/2 games of Los Angeles in the AL West.
Betancourt’s three-run home run in the third inning off a cut fastball from Jon Lester gave the Mariners a 4-3 lead, after they had trailed 3-0. All six of his homers this season have given the Mariners a lead, and after his latest one he repeatedly pumped his fist until well after he rounded first base.
Then his ground ball scored Jones to give Seattle its final lead, 5-4, after the speedy star called up from Triple-A Friday disrupted the entire Red Sox defense in the sixth. Wednesday night, the No. 9 hitter known more for defense beat the Angels with a hit in the 12th inning.
Ready for the title of “Mr. August?”
“Not really,” Betancourt said, laughing. “Last year, my best month was July. This year, who knows?”
Lester, a native of Puyallup, Wash., allowed eight hits and four runs in four innings—the shortest of his three starts since overcoming lymphoma that jeopardized his career last year. David Ortiz had three hits, including his 19th home run of the season, for Boston.
The team with the best record in the major leagues lost for just the fourth time in 14 games and had its AL East lead over the New York Yankees trimmed to seven games. The Red Sox lost for the ninth consecutive time in Seattle.
“I really don’t like pitching here,” an upset Lester said, after failing in front of his family. “It’s nice to be home, but it’s also pain in the butt sometimes. What can you do? … It wasn’t very good.”
Lester then abruptly walked away from his locker.
Jones, promoted after batting .314 with 25 homers at Triple-A, started for slumping Raul Ibanez and went 2-for-4 with two runs scored. After Boston tied it at 4 in the fifth on consecutive singles by Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Ortiz, Jones struck by preoccupying Mike Timlin, who was pitching for the first time since July 23 because of a sore shoulder.
Jones began the inning by grounding to short and then eluding the tag of first baseman Youkilis, after Juilo Lugo’s wide throw pulled Youkilis away for an error. Timlin (1-1) then threw his third pickoff attempt of Jones to a camera well in foul ground, advancing Jones to second. Jones reached third when Timlin hesitated and then threw there late on a sacrifice bunt by Jose Lopez.
He gave Seattle the lead for good on Betancourt’s ground out—and got a shaving cream in the face afterward from prankster J.J. Putz, who finished a scoreless ninth for his AL-leading 32nd save in 34 chances.
“It was indescribable,” Jones said of his season debut in front of Seattle’s seventh sellout crowd this season. “The added bonus was a couple of hits. Hopefully, I can maintain that.”
The Mariners are counting on it.
“He brings so much to the table. He’s so multitalented,” manager John McLaren said. “There’s nothing he can’t do. When all’s said and done, he’ll do everything.”
He’ll have to wait until Sunday. McLaren said Ibanez will play left field instead of Jones, who played there Friday for the first time in his life. The converted shortstop will play center field Sunday, with Ichiro Suzuki as the designated hitter.
The Red Sox scored four runs in four-plus innings off laboring Horacio Ramirez—but should have had plenty more. They had 10 hits against him, including four in the first inning.
After Manny Ramirez singled to load the bases, Mike Lowell hit a soft liner that dropped in front of right fielder Jose Guillen to score Pedroia with the game’s first run. But Ramirez, running with his head down, motored past second base to third, where Youkilis was standing because of a strong relay throw home. Ramirez was tagged for the second out while standing on third—with Youkilis still there, too. Jason Varitek then filed out to keep the score 1-0.
Boston’s first three hitters singled to begin the second. But then Pedroia hit into a double play—which scored Wily Mo Pena—and Youkilis grounded out.
1B Richie Sexson struck out three times and is batting .196. He is 2-for-25 on the homestand and got more loud booing from the home crowd. … Jones was 0-for-12 to begin his major league debut season last July. … Timlin is 0-5 at Safeco Field. … The Mariners have already won the 9-game season series—just the sixth time in 31 years they’ve done that.