SEATTLE – Adrian Beltre finally seems to have his two-strike, swing-at-anything dilemma figured out. Now he’s has the postgame pigpile to avoid.
Beltre put his early-season hitting struggles behind him in the biggest way Wednesday night, grounding a single into left field with one out in the ninth inning to give the Seattle Mariners a 3-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles at Safeco Field.
What followed wasn’t so much a victory celebration as it was an opportunity for Beltre’s teammates to chase him down.
Beltre, in turn, bolted into right-center field trying to avoid the mob, then took the first hit from Yuniesky Betancourt before disappearing into the pile of victory.
Beltre will gladly take the back-slaps, even if they leave welts, given what he has gone through the first two months this season. His average was .212 on May 27 as he struggled with his swing.
“The team needs me to help them win games,” he said.
The Mariners have worked to calm down his swing, and the past six games have shown the most positive results yet. He has a .464 average in those games, including back-to-back 3-for-5 nights in victories over the Orioles that have his average up to .244.
Beltre doubled in the first inning and clubbed a two-run homer off the face of the second deck in left field in the third. There was, however, an ugly strikeout in the fifth against Orioles starter Brad Bergesen and a bouncer back to the mound in the seventh.
When Beltre needed a disciplined at-bat in the ninth, he delivered it, along with a victory.
He came to bat with the score tied at 2 and the bases loaded after Franklin Gutierrez hit a one-out triple to center field and Orioles reliever Jim Johnson intentionally walked Ichiro Suzuki (who extended his team-record hitting streak to 27 games with a third-inning single) and Russell Branyan.
It wasn’t Beltre’s best contact, but he grounded the ball just out of shortstop Cesar Izturis’ reach to score Gutierrez with the winning run.
The late-inning drama wouldn’t have happened without 51/3 mostly gutsy pitching by Mariners starter Jason Vargas.
Vargas pitched around Luke Scott’s solo home run in the second inning and seven other hits. He also bailed himself out of two jams by getting double-play grounders and picking off a runner at first base.
And while Vargas helped himself plenty to hold the Orioles to a run through five innings, others helped as well.
Umpires reversed their call in the first inning when it appeared Aubrey Huff had hit a two-run homer that curled around the fair side of the right-field foul pole.
First-base umpire Chris Guccione immediately signaled home run, although most of the Mariners thought it was foul.
“I knew it was foul,” catcher Rob Johnson said. “The first-base umpire has it tough because there’s a glare off the glass (of the right-field café) early in the evening.”
The umpires huddled and reversed the call, making it a foul ball, and Orioles manager Dave Trembley sprang from the dugout to argue before the umps adjourned to review video. When they returned, they stuck with their reversal – it was a foul ball.
Vargas got another break in the sixth when Rob Johnson picked Huff off third base to end a two-on, two-out threat.
Johnson also threw out Huff trying to steal second base with the score tied in the ninth.
That was the second half of a double play, with M’s closer David Aardsma having just struck out Melvin Mora. Scott bounced back to the mound for the third out, sending the Mariners to bat in the bottom of the ninth with a chance to win their 14th one-run game of the 25 they’ve played this season.
Mariners 3, Orioles 2
|Griffey Jr. dh||4||0||1||0||0||0||.223|
One out when winning run scored.
1-ran for Griffey Jr. in the 8th.
E – Beltre (8). LOB – Baltimore 4, Seattle 11. 2B – Scott (7), Beltre (12). 3B – F.Gutierrez (1). HR – Scott (12), off Vargas; Beltre (4), off Bergesen. RBIs – Scott 2 (32), Beltre 3 (25). CS – A.Huff (5). S – I.Suzuki, Cedeno.
Runners left in scoring position – Baltimore 2 (Wieters 2); Seattle 5 (Jo.Lopez 2, Beltre 3).
Runners moved up – I.Suzuki, Branyan. GIDP – B.Roberts, Wieters, Jo.Lopez.
DP – Baltimore 1 (Mora, B.Roberts, A.Huff); Seattle 3 (Vargas, Y.Betancourt, Branyan), (Y.Betancourt, Jo.Lopez, Branyan), (Ro.Johnson, Ro.Johnson, Y.Betancourt).
|JiJohnson L, 2-3||1 1/3||4||1||1||2||2||32||3.21|
|Jkbska BS, 1-1||1 2/3||1||0||0||0||0||18||5.96|
|Ardsma W, 2-2||1||1||0||0||0||1||13||2.05|