The first one came in the fourth inning when the Tigers were trying to cut into a seven-run lead the Mariners had given Hernandez. With runners on second and third and two outs, Magglio Ordonez drilled a hot grounder up the middle. Betancourt raced to his left, stretched as far as he could, caught the ball and made a strong throw to first base to end the inning.Two innings later, the Tigers had runners on first and second with nobody out. Placido Polanco hit a high chopper over reliever Sean Green's head toward center field. Betancourt timed his run to second base so well that he fielded the ball, touched the base for the force, and in the same motion, made an acrobatic throw to first base to complete the double play. "I would hurt myself making some of the plays he makes," Bloomquist said. "On that double play, if I tried to do what he did, I'd probably fall over the runner and twist my ankle. He makes plays other people can't make." Betancourt's other great play came in the fifth when, with one out and one on, Mike Rabelo hit a one-hopper back to Hernandez, who caught the ball, turned and bounced a throw to second base. Betancourt hit the deck, knocked the ball down, picked it up while his right foot remained on the base, and made a throw to first base while on the seat of his pants. Rabelo barely beat the throw. Former Mariners shortstop Carlos Guillen, a two-time All-Star, raved about Betancourt during a pregame interview on Saturday afternoon. That was before Betancourt put on Sunday's dazzling display. "He's unbelievable," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "For me, he's the best defensive shortstop in the league, without question. He's a hell of a player, a tremendous shortstop. Tremendous." The Mariners would agree. "There are times when I'm not playing and will be watching other shortstops make great plays and I say, 'I can make that play,'" Bloomquist said. "I don't say that with Yuni. He's special, and is only going to get better. He's fun to watch." Hernandez just shook his head and smiled when he was asked about the game Betancourt had just played. "He is unbelievable," Hernandez said. "He told me that when I sign my next contract, he will get my bonus." Besides the run-saving plays made in the field, Betancourt went 3-for-5, scored three runs and drove in one. He is now batting .285 with nine home runs and 58 RBIs. McLaren predicted that Betancourt would become an All-Star. "His game is going up and up and up," McLaren said. "He has to be one of the best in the league, night after night, right at the top. The plays he makes, the acrobatic moves he makes, the arm strength he has. And he has fun playing baseball. "Yuni is going to be an All-Star, for sure, a great all-around player," he added. The Mariners will need a lineup full of Betancourts the rest of the way -- and get some help elsewhere -- if they are going to participate in the playoffs for the first time since 2001. "We have to play every game from here on out like it's a playoff game and take our chances," McLaren said. Seattle might not have first baseman Richie Sexson available. He was removed from Sunday's game in the fourth inning when his left hamstring began bothering him again. "He'll have it looked at by the [team] doctor [on Monday]," McLaren said. "You can tell he's not right up there."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.