Betancourt's walk-off saves Putz

Betancourt's walk-off saves Putz

SEATTLE -- Fans were worried they had lost their ace. Felix Hernandez just didn't want to lose the game.

In the end, both could rest easy.

Yuniesky Betancourt hit a walk-off single in the 12th inning Wednesday night, and the Mariners beat the Angels, 8-7, in front of 34,471 fans at Safeco Field. The win gave the Mariners their first series win over the Angels since Aug. 28-30, 2006, and helped them cut the division leaders' lead to three games.

They also inched closer in the Wild Card race, cutting Cleveland's lead to just a half-game.

It was a bizarre night at Safeco Field on Wednesday. In just under four hours, the Mariners saw their ace go down in pain, their star closer blow a three-run lead and a five-player infield.

Hernandez cruised through the first three innings before he literally ran into some trouble. With two on and no outs, Hernandez attempted to field Vladimir Guerrero's bouncing ball down the first-base line, a ball first baseman Ben Broussard was also chasing.

The two collided, which allowed Guerrero reach second with an RBI double while Broussard and Hernandez were on the ground in pain.

"I was just going for the ball, and I just felt when we crashed," Hernandez said. "That was unbelievable. I still hurt."

Hernandez refused to leave the game in someone else's hands, at least not in the fourth inning.

"I have to get up if we want beat them," Hernandez thought at the time. "The most important thing, the defense was there, the offense was there, the pitching was there. We won this game, it was very important for us."

It was a scary moment at Safeco Field, especially for manager John McLaren, who said he knew what he would have done if Hernandez had to leave the game, but wanted to give him a chance to recover.

It didn't take long to make the decision to leave him in the game.

"I wanted to give him a chance to get his breath back, to see how he responded, and of course see how he threw the ball," McLaren said. "He threw one 100 [mph], and I felt pretty good that he was OK."

Hernandez pitched well enough to earn his eighth win of the season, allowing four runs on six hits in eight innings. The Mariners entered the ninth up by three runs, usually more than enough cushion for J.J. Putz.

Putz allowed one run before inducing Garret Anderson into a double-play, clearing the bases with two outs. Casey Kotchman singled, setting up Gary Matthews Jr.'s home run to left field, tying the game while silencing the fans.

"It happens," Putz said. "They always say in the ninth inning, make the guy beat you the other way, and he beat me the other way."

Seattle used four pitchers in the three extra innings, with reliever Eric O'Flaherty earning the win, improving his record to 7-0 this season.

The Mariners had plenty of chances to put the Angels away in the extra frame, but struggled to get that extra-base hit. In the 10th, Jose Lopez missed a bunt on an attempted squeeze play with one out, ending a possible threat.

Facing a five-player infield with the bases loaded and one out in the 12th, Betancourt hit a ground ball through to left field to end the game. The Angels had brought Matthews in from center field to help the infielders, and although Betancourt had never hit against something like that before, he executed brilliantly.

"You just try to make contact," Betancourt said through an interpreter. "You try to get it up in the air, but if not, just hit it solid on the ground and hopefully it gets through."

Sean Green, George Sherrill and Brandon Morrow combined to hold the Angels scoreless in the extra frames.

Hernandez's seven strikeouts is the sixth time this season he has recorded seven-or-more strikeouts in a game, and it was also the sixth time this year he's pitched into the eighth inning.

"He was a real warrior," McLaren said. "He took a pretty good hit there, and he wanted it bad."

And he got it, although not without some late-inning drama.

"That's as good of a game as I've been involved in, in years," McLaren said. "We had a little bit of everything."

Patrick Brown is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.