May 2nd: With two down and none on in the bottom of the seventh, Yuniesky Betancourt breaks a tie by taking a 1-0 fastball from John Danks over the left-center fence.
If something happens on the field, and no one's around to see it, how sure can we be that it actually took place? (The answer, of course, is 'very', as evidenced by every home game in Oakland ever.)
Back in early May, the Mariners were still trying to find their season identity. The snowed-out series in Cleveland wreaked havoc on their schedule and a spate of discouraging losses dropped them to 5-9, but then they picked it up and came into this game winners of six of seven. As modest as their success had been, the M's were above .500 at the 21-game mark for the first time in four years, and there was reason to think they were capable of more. All they had to do was demonstrate the ability to consistently beat the teams they were supposed to beat.
Chicago was one of those teams, and Jarrod Washburn had just kept them quiet the night before. Now to wrap up the little series two-fer, the M's wouldn't get much of a home field advantage, as the weekday start time had been moved up several hours to allow for a makeup flight to Boston, but the matchup of Miguel Batista against a very green John Danks worked in their favor, so this one felt like a game for the taking.
However, take it they didn't, at least not for a while. Through five and a half innings the score was 2-1 White Sox, powered by a trio of solo homers. The game, like so many other Seattle/Chicago showdowns in recent years, was flying by, but the Mariners were running out of at bats, as they were just bailing Danks out with bad swings and pop-ups time after time. For a while, this yawner had all the makings of being an afternoon of regret, both for those who played and for those who watched.
We thankfully got a little action in the bottom of the sixth, when Raul Ibanez doubled home Jose Vidro from first base to tie the game. Said Dave Sims, ever so cautiously: Vidro doesn't run...too well... The excitement momentarily stirred us out of our catatonic stupor, but as each of the following six batters walked up and sat down, we gradually became less cognizant of our surroundings and more cognizant of how eyelids feel like the warm down comforters of the cornea.
As a rule of thumb, if there's no one on base and two down, and Yuniesky Betancourt's at the plate, it's okay to get a jump on whatever you were planning to get done during the inning break. That way you're guaranteed not to miss anything more important on the other end of the commercials. Lucky for us I think this time we were all too bored to move, though, because two pitches into the at bat, the Yunibomber sent a fly ball to left that just never stopped carrying, much to the delight of the literally tens of people in attendance.
The homer - Yuni's third of the year - wasn't particularly impressive to the eye (none of his ever are), but the way in which it instantly turned an uncomfortable game into a near-certain win was enough to put it on this list. Sure enough, JJ Putz would induce a first-pitch double play off the bat of Rob Mackowiak a little while later to slam the door. Thanks to Yuni, the M's were up to 12-10, having put the finishing touches on their third sweep of the season (totaling five games). It wasn't a moment that many people saw, but the ones who did wouldn't soon forget.
(Incidentally - I know I've mentioned this before, but Betancourt had a massively clutch season in 2007, considering he wasn't much of a hitter overall. His Fangraphs Clutch rating of 1.26 ranked ninth in baseball, and of his nine home runs, seven either tied the game or gave the M's the lead. When you only have so many big hits in your bat, you might as well use them up when they'll do the most damage, I suppose.)