September 13th: Adrian Beltre caps off the massive rally against Tampa Bay with a two-out RBI single, driving in Yuniesky Betancourt.
As fun as they are to watch when they happen, a comeback is only worthwhile if you win. Nobody cares if you battle back from a deficit but still come up short, because the good vibes from showing resilience are overpowered by the bad vibes of losing. There's no other way around it. Even the 2001 Indians wouldn't have much to gloat about had they gone on to lose to the M's in extra innings. Wins can be made better, but rarely can losses be made any less unpleasant, regardless of the circumstances.
That's why, as exhilarating as it was when Yuni tied the game with a double, we still felt like something was missing. This rally needed a finishing touch. The D'Rays were already coming apart; it was just up to the M's to add one more hit and put them out of their misery.
Thank goodness for Adrian Beltre. After Tampa Bay wisely opted to put Ichiro on base, that set up a showdown between Beltre and Dan Wheeler, one of the only half-decent arms in the TB bullpen. And on the fifth pitch, Beltre won the battle as only Beltre can, chasing a 2-2 offspeed pitch down and away and somehow yanking it into left field, where it dropped in front of an indifferent Jonny Gomes. In came Yuni to score, and the Mariners seized an 8-7 lead that JJ would put away a few minutes later. The wild comeback was complete, and while the game itself was meaningless, I defy you to go back in time to September 13th, confront yourself, and say the same. Some games transcend the context of the season. This was one of them.
Ever since the first time I heard someone rip on Alanis Morissette I've been nervous about using this word, but I find it ironic that Beltre won the game the way he did. After getting ahead in the count 2-0, he swung through one fastball at the belt and fouled off another, setting up the big hit on a difficult pitch. Of course he'd chase that pitch. He's always chased that pitch. So it's both ironic and somehow appropriate that he won the game on the breaking ball instead of either of the meatball heaters that preceded it. I suppose in some respects that at bat was Adrian Beltre in a nutshell. He never does anything the easy way, but he always seems to find success. He's just so gosh darn unorthodox. And that's one of the reasons we love him.