Jose Lopez’s ninth inning walk-off single drives home Seattle’s first win in eight games


Jose Lopez’s ninth inning walk-off single drives home Seattle’s first win in eight games

(May 27, 2008) – Although Julio Lugo had been ejected three innings prior, his spirit was still on the field in the bottom of the ninth inning. Second baseman Jose Lopez’s two-out single down the third base line, past the diving Mike Lowell, gave the Mariners the 4-3 victory.

Seattle right fielder Wladimir Balentien began the inning with single off the glove of replacement shortstop Alex Cora, against reliever Mike Timlin. First baseman and former Yankee Miguel Cairo laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the right fielder up into scoring position for pinch hitter, Jeremy Reed. Reed, who was pinch hitting for the upset and angry Yuniesky Betancourt, did not do what he wanted to do. He grounded out for the second out of the inning but he made sure it was to the right side of the infield to move the winning run to just 90 feet away with Ichiro Suzuki coming to bat. Suzuki was already 2-for-4 on the night with a single and double, so the Sox played it smart and intentionally walked the Seattle center fielder, to face Lopez. (Well it was a smart play at the time.)

The lowly Mariners jumped out to the early 2-0 lead against Daisuke Matsuzaka in the bottom of the first inning. Coming into the game, Matsuzaka has owned his fellow countryman, Suzuki, but tonight was a different story. Suzuki led of the game for Seattle lining a base hit down the left field line. His incredible speed allowed him to cruise into second with the easy double. Matsuzaka would make a key mistake on Lopez’s ground ball. Instead of throwing to force out Lopez for the sure out, Matsuzaka tried to get the speedy Suzuki, who broke for third on the play. Just like that, the Mariners had runners at the corners with no body out.

I vividly recall telling the children at after school recreation baseball to get the sure out at first base. Maybe Matsuzaka needs to go back to tee-ball to re-learn the basic fundamentals of the game of baseball.

His first inning mistake ended up costing the Sox two runs. Designated hitter, Jose Vidro reached on a fielder’s choice – first to short – forcing out Lopez and in the back door came Suzuki with Seattle’s first run of the game. Left fielder Raul Ibanez hit line drive double just past the outstretched glove of the diving Coco Crisp in left center, to drive in Vidro with the second run. But Matsuzaka was able to “minimize the damage” by striking out third baseman, Adrian Beltre and catcher Kenji Johjima, back-to-back to end the inning.

Seattle would get another run two innings later after Suzuki led off the inning with a base hit into center field. He was able to turn a simple single into a double with his 22nd stolen base of the season, putting him one steal behind Houston Astros’s center fielder Michael Bourn (23). Suzuki advanced to third on a ground ball to first by Vidro. Sean Casey reverted to his days as a little leaguer and threw the ball wide of Matsuzaka allowing Vidro to reach. With an extra life, Ibanez drove in his second run of the game with a ground ball, fielder’s choice to second.

The Sox bats were stifled for the first five innings by Seattle right hander Miguel Batista but were able to get to him an inning later. After making Crisp just his second strike out victim, shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt bobbled a ground ball by Dustin Pedroia allowing the Sox second baseman to reach and giving Betancourt his seventh error of the season. The error rattled the Mariners pitcher and he gave up a base hit to right by the Sox big man, David Ortiz, giving Manny Ramirez the opportunity to tie up the game with one swing of the bat.

Stuck at 498 homeruns for over two weeks and 0-for-1 on the night, Ramirez lined an opposite field shot over the head of Balentien for his 499th career homerun – ninth on the season. It is hard not be jealous of Manny’s swing. He has the perfect swing any baseball player – youth or professional – wants to have. There are even some golfers out there that watch in amazement of how still the eccentric left fielder’s head remains as well as the fluid motion of his arms as he swings through the ball.

After tying the game in the sixth, the Sox had their biggest opportunity of the game to take the lead two innings later. Facing Pedroia for the fourth time, Batista walked the Sox second baseman and was quickly pulled by manager John McLaren in favor the left hander Ryan Rowland-Smith. Brought in specifically to face Ortiz, Rowland-Smith failed to do his job, giving up a base hit to right center to the designated hitter and moving Pedroia up to second. That was it for the Seattle lefty as McLaren opted for the right hander Brandon Morrow to face Ramirez.

With no outs, runners on first and second and one of the most dangerous hitters at the plate, it did not spell good news for the Mariners. Two innings ago, Ramirez took an outside pitch over the right field fence to push him one homerun closer to the evasive 500 mark. Everything was in line for an offensive shower of runs, but just as unpredictable as the weather is, so is the Red Sox offense on this 10-game road trip. Morrow retired Ramirez and Lowell on back-to-back strike outs and got J.D. Drew to fly out to right to end the threat.

The Red Sox will send their knuckleball pitcher to the hill to face the former Baltimore Oriole in tomorrow’s late night finale in the hometown of the co-founder of the world’s largest operating system. Tim Wakefield will face Seattle left hander Erik Bedard in the final game of the three game series with the Mariners. Looking for his fourth win of the season, Wakefield is coming off an 8-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics last Friday night. In the lose, the Sox veteran right hander allowed all eight runs on eight hits while walking four and striking out four.

Wakefield has faced Seattle 23 times including 13 starts against Mariners in his 14 year career. In 111.1 innings, he is 3-8 with one shut out, a 4.37 ERA and a 78-to-52 strike out-to-walk ratio. Also in his 13 starts, Wakefield has gone the distance thrice against the Mariners including one shut out.

Before being traded to the Mariners, the native Canadian spent the first five years of his career in the American League East with the Baltimore Orioles, so he has seen a lot of the Red Sox. Against the Sox in his career, Bedard appeared in 11 games and has a 4-4 with a 4.95 ERA, a .222 opponent’s batting average and a 47-to-33 strike out-to-walk ratio. The Seattle lefty is coming of a 13-2 loss against the Yankees in the Bronx where he went just 4.1 innings allowing nine runs on eight hits while walking one and striking out three.

WIN: J.J Putz (2-2)

LOSS: Mike Timlin (2-3)


Game Notes:

Ichiro Suzuki’s double down the third base line to lead off the game for the Mariners, was only his second MLB hit against his fellow countryman, Daisuke Matsuzaka. With his third inning single, Ichiro is now 3-for-14 against Matsuzaka.

Daisuke Matsuzaka came out of the game before he threw a single pitch in the bottom of the fifth with an apparent right hip injury. More when it becomes available.

Third base umpire, Angel Hernandez ejected Julio Lugo and Terry Francona in the bottom of the fifth for arguing Raul Ibanez’s check swing on a 1-0 pitch. Alex Cora came into the game to replace Lugo at shortstop.

The 3 Stars of the Game:

  1. Jose Lopez, SEATTLE ---- 2-4 Double, Game Winning RBI
  1. Ichiro Suzuki, SEATTLE ---- 2-4 Double, Stolen Base
  1. Manny Ramirez, BOSTON ---- 1-3 Homerun, 3 RBIs, 4th outfield assist in the sixth on Beltre

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