Mariners ride youth to victory

Mariners ride youth to victory

SEATTLE -- The kids can play.

Aided by performances from their 30-and-under crowd, the Mariners powered past the Red Sox, 7-4, Friday night in front of 46,235 fans at Safeco Field. The win not only helped them cut the Angels' lead in the American League West to 2 1/2 games, but also put them just one-half game behind Detroit in the Wild Card race.

Teams often count on veteran hitting and pitching to lead them to the postseason, but Seattle's youth stepped up and carried the team Friday, if only for one day.

Twenty-five-year-old shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt notched a career-high four RBIs, including a three-run home run in the fourth, although his contributions are hardly new to the Mariners. He now leads the team with 12 game-winning RBIs, and is hitting .373 in his last 20 games.

Betancourt then helped preserve the win with a hit-saving diving stop in the ninth.

"Betancourt's taking his game to another level, defensively," said Mariners manager John McLaren. "He thinks he's trying to stay up with [Adrian] Beltre at third, which is hard to do."

Betancourt, who put the Mariners up twice -- once with his home run, and then for good in the sixth, is just happy to be making solid contact again. He hit a team-best .374 in July last season, and hopes to build upon that as the Mariners mount their late-season push.

"Last year my best month was July," Betancourt said through an interpreter. "This year, who knows?"

Newly-recalled outfielder Adam Jones, 22, helped spark the offense in the sixth with his speed alone. After reaching first on an errant throw from Boston shortstop Julio Lugo, he advanced all the way to third before Betancourt hit him home on a groundout to second.

Jones finished 2-for-4 with two singles and two runs scored, and pleased, but didn't surprise, his manager.

"There's really not anything he can't do," McLaren said. "When it's all said and done, he's going to do everything."

Round that out with the performance of 28-year-old reliever Sean Green, who bailed out starter Horacio Ramirez by pitching 2 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball, and it was Seattle's young guns that stole the show.

Ramirez struggled through much of the game, but minimized the damage, allowing four runs on 10 hits in four-plus innings, despite loading the bases in the first and second innings.

Green entered the game in the fifth with none out and runners on first and second, but induced Manny Ramirez into a double play before getting Mike Lowell to ground out to short.

Green improved to 5-1 with a 2.44 ERA.

"Green was huge, to slam the door right there when he did," McLaren said. "He's been doing it all year, and I can't say enough good things about him."

Green is typically used in late-inning situations, but said he was prepared to enter the game earlier because the situation called for it. The decision came down to who had plenty of innings under their belt, and McLaren decided upon Green.

Although it was a little unusual for him, it was welcome.

"It felt the same because the situation, we had a couple guys on, there were no outs," Green said. "It worked out that way, so it was good for everybody."

Green faced everyone in Boston's lineup except David Ortiz, and only allowed Jason Veritek, who led off the sixth with a single, to reach base.

"All of these guys, if you make a mistake, they're going to hit it hard somewhere," Green said. "You just try to keep the ball down, especially me, because I'm throwing a lot of sinkers."

J.J. Putz worked the ninth inning for his 32nd save in 34 chances.

As the season continues, the Mariners will certainly need their veteran bats to stay lively while they pursue a possible playoff spot.

Friday night, though, was a showcase of the young talent on their team. Betancourt had seemingly proven himself already, having already spent one entire season with the Mariners.

Jones may have some work to do before he becomes an everyday player, but he certainly took a step in the right direction, and opened whatever eyes had not been eagerly anticipating his return to Seattle.

"I don't want to put the expectations to high on him, because everybody's done that, but he's going to be something special someday," McLaren said. "That's going to be something great for this organization, to see another guy come through here."

Jones is just happy to be back and playing meaningful baseball in August. With that, the future of baseball looks bright in the Emerald City.

"The situation is different, because we're in a pennant race right now," Jones said. "Last year we were out a little bit, and this year, you can just feel that energy in the clubhouse."

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