And on a night during which he both doubled and homered, it'll be Adrian Beltre's single through a drawn-in infield that people remember. But whether or not that does him justice doesn't really matter; what matters is that, in a break from the course of the rest of the season, he'll be remembered for something successful, and after two months of debilitating failure, I have to imagine that feels pretty good.
As a matter of fact, given everything that Beltre did tonight, there might not be any point in mentioning anyone else should you go on to relay the story of this game to a friend. Luke Scott's sinister business and the overturned home run notwithstanding, Beltre was involved in many of the most critical events in the game. His double in the first put two men in scoring position. His mammoth homer in the third gave the Mariners the lead. His clumsy error on a should-be double play grounder in the fourth loaded the bases for Baltimore with one out. His feeble groundout with the bases loaded in the seventh kept it a tie game. And, of course, his single in the ninth sent everyone home. Those five events carried with them a total win expectancy swing of 67.9%, which makes me wonder just how differently this all would've gone had we started someone else at third base. One player ordinarily doesn't make that much of a difference, but Beltre seemed to find himself in the middle of everything.
Seeing Beltre hit that homer as hard as he did confirms to me that the cause for his struggles has been in his head, rather than his body. Players who are broken don't do that to fastballs at their eyes. So with that in mind, it'll be interesting to see what Beltre takes out of this game, as far as his confidence is concerned. The two extra-base hits were followed by a fluky error, a strikeout, and an ugly at bat with the bases loaded, and it would've been easy for him to get down on himself. In fact, when he went up to the plate in the ninth, it looked like swinging was the absolute last thing he wanted to do. It looked to me like he didn't want to swing unless it was necessary. That's not normal Beltre. So for him to then get the bat on the ball and foul off two tough pitches before singling home the winning run...I don't care if that grounder is a double play with the infield at normal depth. That's a big hit in a big situation for Beltre, and hopefully he's able to build off of that and continue reverting back to the player we all expected him to be. He's followed an 0-21 skid by hitting .368/.400/.509 since May 21st, and if this means he's back, then there may be some salvaging of this season yet.
That home run, by the way, is why, no matter how much grief I give Beltre for swinging at garbage, I'll never be able to hate him. He took a fastball several inches above the upper boundary of the strike zone and put a charge into it the way few players can. Beltre swings at a lot of bad pitches, but he's been able to remain somewhat successful in spite of that tendency because every so often he'll put one of them in the seats. Remember the walk-off home run he hit against the Yankees a few years back on the fastball above his nose? He's a different kind of ballplayer.
Beltre, of course, wasn't literally involved in everything important. I'm just pressed for time and wanted to talk about him for a little while since he's finally starting to look like himself again. As far as Jason Vargas is concerned, the Orioles were barely hitting him. They hit one home run, one fly out, one pop up, and 15 groundballs, and although Vargas has never been known as a groundballer at any level, they came in handy and kept the Orioles from having any big innings. This is just the latest start in which Vargas has looked and felt unsustainably comfortable. His 1.93 ERA is an absolute joke, but given the nightmares we've had to go through on the offensive side, we deserve random bullshit like this.
Baltimore also helped us out by running into three outs on the basepaths. Vargas caught Nolan Reimold napping off first in the fifth, Rob Johnson caught Aubrey Huff napping off third in the sixth, and Huff was later hung out to dry on a failed hit & run in the ninth. Those three plays improved the Mariners' chances of winning by 27.8%, and when you throw in the double play in the third and the two double plays they tried to hit into in the fourth, the Orioles really didn't seem much for the fundamentals tonight. Maybe the video replay in the first inning convinced the dugout that this was some new futuristic version of baseball in which the things you learn in Little League are no longer important. It probably didn't. That doesn't even make sense.
Anyway, this was neither the easiest nor the most impressive win of the season, but for a team desperate to hang in the race, this was a pretty big win, and taking the series is a good way to kick off this stretch of games against mediocre opponents. The Orioles have a talented lineup, so to hold them to four runs in three games is no small feat, and if Beltre's waking up, then we may finally have an offense to occupy the other halves of the innings. We'll see. With a wild-ass lefty and two sinker-slider righties set to face the M's this weekend, the momentum could stop just as abruptly as it began. But if it doesn't, then hooray!