Yuniesky Betancourt drew his first walk of the season with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning Monday night. Betancourt represented the winning run in a one-run ballgame, Texas leading 6-5, with the tying run in Franklin Gutierrez standing on second base.
That brought the Mariners leading man, Ichiro Suzuki, to home plate. No other person we’d rather have at the dish, right? Wrong.
After Texas Rangers’ closer Frank Francisco issued a five-pitch base on balls to the Mariners shortstop, struggling mightily to locate the strike zone, Ichiro should have taken a pitch, maybe two. It’s common knowledge in the baseball world that in that situation, a hitter, no matter how great, gives himself the red light.
Maybe this is where our cultures clash, but what Ichiro did was selfish and flat wrong. The best thing for the team at that point would have been for Ichiro to at least let the first pitch go by, and force Francisco to regain composure in a shaky situation.
Instead, the M’s right fielder hacked at the first ball thrown his way (not a terrible pitch to swing at, but again, let’s think about the situation) and flew out to center field. Game over.
Two outs, bottom of the ninth, down by one, tying run on second base, winning run on first, and your best player pops out on pitch number one.
We can harp on Betancourt for his lack of plate disclipine all day long, but if we’re going to point fingers at one guy, we need to do it with the other, as well. Ichiro needs to know what he’s doing up there and control the situation. He didn’t do that. He screwed up. He needs to learn from it and apply it next time. We can only hope that occurs.