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For the first time since falling to the Phillies at the end of June, the Boston Red Sox have lost a series, this time at the hands of the Mariners who sealed their series win with a 5-3 victory Sunday.
With both pitchers getting off to a strong start in the first two innings, it was Tim Wakefield who faltered first, allowing a leadoff walk to Casper Wells in the third. Wells didn't stay there long, quickly stealing second and advancing to third when Saltalamacchia's throw made its way into center field, leaving Jack Wilson free to single him in.
The troubles didn't stop there. After another base hit put runners at first and second, a ground ball to Adrian Gonzalez had the potential to provide two outs at once. But, as the throw came late back to first, the umpire at second decided that Jed Lowrie had not been close enough to the base to garner the neighborhood call that had been a staple of double plays for years. With the bases loaded as a result, a sacrifice fly and a single left the Mariners up 3-0.
Boston would fight back for a run of their own in the fourth on Jed Lowrie's sacrifice fly, but Wakefield quickly gave it back in the fifth when the Mariners led off the frame with three straight singles. One inning later, and it was a home run from Casper Wells making it 5-1.
The only life the Boston offense could really manage came in the top of the eighth. With Dustin Pedroia picking up a one-out single, Kevin Youkilis stepped to the plate with two outs and the 5-1 lead still in tact. Getting ahead 1-2, Jeff Gray attempted to put the Sox' third baseman away with a slider. It ended up catching too much of the plate, and Youkilis got all of it, hooking the ball well into the stands in left field. The Sox would pick up no more baserunners, however, leaving them 5-3 losers.
The Red Sox trail the Mariners 5-1 halfway through Sunday afternoon’s game thanks to a sloppy third frame.
The trouble all began when, after throwing two perfect innings on just 16 pitches, Wakefield allowed a walk to lead off the third. As most baserunners are wont to do against Wakefield, Casper Wells decided to try for second, and then ended up on third went Saltalamacchia’s throw skipped past second and into the outfield. One infield single later, and it was 1-0.
If the trouble had ended there it wouldn’t be any big deal, but then the umps got involved. After another single to right field, Ichiro stepped up to the plate and hit a ground ball to first. Gonzalez, seeing the potential for a double play, fired to second, where Jed Lowrie received the ball, stepped to the side, and threw to first. The relay wasn’t in time, but the real problem came when the umpire decided not to give Lowrie the neighborhood call on contact at second that every fielder has received for the last decade. With the bases now loaded, a sacrifice fly made it 2-0, and a single capped things at 3-0.
The Sox recovered a run on Jed Lowrie’s sacrifice fly in the fourth, but gave it right back in the fourth when the Mariners opened the frame with three straight singles. Finally, in the sixth, Casper Wells hit his second homer of the series to give the Mariners a 5-1 lead.
The Sox are in need of a wake-up call if they want to avoid losing their first series since they wrapped up an NL trip in Philly.
The Red Sox will once again have the services of Kevin Youkilis Sunday afternoon, as the third baseman makes his return to the Boston lineup after missing two days with a bad back.
While Dustin Pedroia has filled in admirably for Youkilis in his time off, the Sox will be happy to see a more standard group out there, with Pedroia able to return to his typical role batting second with Youkilis coming up behind Gonzalez. With lefty Charlie Furbush on the mound for Seattle, the Sox will also be calling on Jed Lowrie and Darnell McDonald to handle duties at short and in right respectively.
Boston Red Sox (73-45)
The Mariners will make a few adjustments in the bottom of the order despite doing pretty well with the group they've put out the last couple of games.
Seattle Mariners (51-67)
Pitching Matchup: Tim Wakefield (6-4, 4.92 ERA) vs. Charlie Furbush (1-1, 7.20 ERA)
Today's pitching matchup seems like a perfect chance for Tim Wakefield to finally pick up win number 200, which is why it also seems entirely unlikely to happen.
For three straight starts now, Tim Wakefield has taken the mound in search of that milestone, and been denied one way or another, be it by his defense, his manager, or the lineup. Ironically enough, his last W came in a game where he allowed more runs than he pitched innings. It's getting to be a thing, really. Wakefield will pitch well, as might be expected against the Mariners, and for his troubles he'll receive no backup. He might be better off just waiting to face the Rangers or Yankees at this pace.
And then you've got Charlie Furbush. A young lefty, fresh from the minors, who sits in the low 90s and relies on movement to fool opposing offenses. If ever there was a type of pitcher that, for no apparent reason, completely baffled the Red Sox, the soft-tossing lefty is it.
Of course, if you toss superstition aside, this is a matchup the Sox should dominate. Their lineup is better than Seattle's, and Furbush just got beaten up by another top offense in Texas. But somehow that nagging feeling remains...
The Red Sox could not overcome a poor start from Josh Beckett Saturday night, falling to the Mariners 5-4 despite a middle-inning rally against Felix Hernandez.
Ichiro Suzuki set the tone for the first inning with the very first pitch of the night from Josh Beckett, sending a get-me-over fastball out to right field for a quick 1-0 lead. Things wouldn't slow down from there. For the second straight night, the Mariners would send their first four batters to the basepaths, with Franklin Guttierez singling, Dustin Ackley doubling, and Mike Carp singling to make it a very quick 3-0 lead. Wily Mo Pena would provide Beckett's first out more than 20 pitches into his start, but Casper Wells put an exclamation mark on the frame by taking the Red Sox' ace deep for the second time in the inning, leaving Boston down 5-0 after one.
Josh Beckett would settle down after his disaster first, pitching the next four innings without allowing any further damage, but through the fifth, Felix Hernandez was showing few signs of weakness. The only trouble he faced came in the fourth, when with Jacoby Ellsbury on third, Dustin Pedroia flew out to right. Ellsbury raced home, but couldn't come close to beating the incredible throw from Ichiro. As Ellsbury crashed into Josh Bard, the Seattle catcher pulled the ball from his glove as if to show the umpire, but the call was safe, with Bard having dropped the ball. Confusion erupted as players, umpires, and managers alike gathered around the plate, but in the end the call was reversed--correctly, for what it's worth--and Terry Francona tossed from the game for arguing.
Perhaps it was their manager's ejection, but for whatever reason, the Sox came out in the sixth with fire at their heels. Marco Scutaro tripled off the wall in left-center, though the ball seemed catchable, and scored quickly thereafter when Ellsbury decided not to test any outfielder arms by hitting his 20th home run of the season. With one out, Adrian Gonzalez took advantage of the shift, dropping a perfect bunt down the vacated third base line, and then much like Scutaro before him enjoyed a leisurely walk home as Dustin Pedroia went to the opposite field to pick up his own 16th. Suddenly, it was a one-run game.
Unfortunately, that was the way it would stay. A pair of double plays in the seventh and eighth, along with a bizarre decision to try and steal on a 2-0 count from Darnell McDonald (who was pinch running for David Ortiz--himself having reached on a walk) took the life out of any hopes for a Boston comeback.
Josh Beckett has pitched three good innings, but a terrible first is all that it's taken to leave the Sox down big in what is fast becoming a candidate for the worst game of the year.
What was expected to be an exceptional pitcher's duel has been one-sided from Beckett's very first pitch--a fastball grooved down the middle to Ichiro Suzuki, who put a good swing on it and sent a rocket out to right for the first run of the game. For the second straight night the first four Mariners would reach base, only this time, each and every one would round them, with Casper Wells providing the exclamation mark with his two-run shot that gave the Mariners a 5-0 lead. Given who's on the mound for Seattle, that's nearly game-ending.
The good news for Boston is that Beckett has settled down tremendously, and has only 67 pitches through the first four innings after taking 22 to get just his first out. The bad news is that, while their bullpen may not be taxed, they haven't had any chance to get back into things. Hernandez has allowed just two hits through the first four, and when it seemed like the Sox had finally broken through for a run when Jacoby Ellsbury bowled over Josh Bard at the plate on Dustin Pedroia's fly ball in the fourth, the call was reversed. Terry Francona was ejected, and the Sox are just looking dead in the water.
The Red Sox and Mariners have lined up their aces for a Saturday night duel, as two of the league's best in Josh and Felix Hernandez will take the mound in Seattle.
The Red Sox will be without Kevin Youkilis for the second straight night thanks to some lingering back pains. Marco Scutaro will make his return to the shortstop position with Mike Aviles filling in for Youkilis at third. It's not the worst possible night to lose Youkilis, since Hernandez has done fairly well against him over the course of his career, but a .350 OBP against is probably about as much as you could hope for given who's on the mound. Aviles, for what little it's worth, is 3-for-8 against the Seattle ace.
Boston Red Sox (73-44)
The Mariners will have a familiar face in their lineup: Wily Mo Pena, hitter of homers, and prolific strikeout artist. Pena will fill the role of DH and bat fifth.
Seattle Mariners (50-67)
Pitching Matchup: Josh Beckett (9-4, 2.17 ERA) vs. Felix Hernandez (10-10, 3.31 ERA)
You don't get matchups much better than this, but based on recent history, this could just be a mismatch. After all, it was less than a month ago that Hernandez came undone in the seventh inning against Boston, allowing four runs in the frame and six in his 6.1 total innings of work. The key will likely be working long at bats against Felix, if only just to get him out of the game, but given the Seattle ace's tendency to throw strikes early and often, that's easier said than done. They've also done their best work against Hernandez' off-speed stuff, so if they're going to hack at fastballs, they'd best be good ones to hit.
If the Sox can just score three for Beckett, that could well be enough. After all, the Boston ace has allowed more than three earned runs just twice, and one of those times was in his return to action after an illness forced him to go 13 days between starts. As one might expect, his one start against the weak-hitting Mariners was even above his typically high standard, going seven innings and giving up just one earned run. If he can avoid letting the top of the lineup put him in a difficult position, he could have another stellar night.
Home runs from David Ortiz, Jed Lowrie, and Josh Reddick powered the Red Sox past the Mariners Friday night as the Sox emerged with a 6-4 win in the first game of their short West Coast trip.
Despite returning to familiar territory from his time in the A.L. West, John Lackey suffered one of his worst outings in more than a month. Allowing the first four runners to reach base (albeit three of them on ground balls, including a swinging bunt from Franklin Guttierez), Lackey gave up two runs in the first, and then another in the second just as the Sox had fought back to tie the game.
Lackey would settle in for much of the rest of the game, allowing just one more run to score in the fourth while recording 1-2-3 innings in the fifth and sixth. And while his the bottom line on his outing--four earned runs in six innings--isn't terribly impressive, it was good enough to keep the Sox in the game.
The Sox' offense was not at full strength Friday, lacking both Marco Scutaro and Kevin Youkilis thanks to some back soreness. But despite that, a 10:10 p.m. EST start, and a 2-for-9 mark with runners in scoring position, the lineup was up to the task of solving Blake Beavan, who had shut down the Sox in Fenway park just a few weeks back. They did so primarily through the long ball.
The barrage started in the top of the second, when David Ortiz put a picture-perfect swing on a fastball from Beavan and knocked it over the wall in dead center to put the Sox on the board. Boston would score again in the inning, but in rather more frightening fashion. After Carl Crawford lined a single into right, Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a sharp ground ball to first, where an unusual hop sent the ball hard into Justin Smoak's face. The Seattle first baseman would have to leave the game with a fractured nose. Shortly thereafter, Mike Aviles hit a sacrifice fly to bring Crawford home from third.
Perhaps the best sign of the night for any individual player came in the fifth, when the Sox struck again. Pushed into action against a right-handed pitcher thanks to Scutaro's back, Jed Lowrie stepped up to bat from the left side, and clobbered an inside fastball. The power was the sort the Sox had only come to expect of Jed from the right side, as the ball landed a good dozen rows back in right field.
Josh Reddick, however, was not about to be outdone by a shortstop. With the Sox still trailing 4-3 in the sixth and one man on base, Reddick one-upped Lowrie by planting a home run of his own off the top of the scoreboard right above where Lowrie's shot had landed. An added RBI single from Dustin Pedroia helped give the Sox some insurance in the seventh, but they would not need it. Daniel Bard recorded three of his four outs via nasty strikeouts, and Jonathan Papelbon pitched a strong if imperfect ninth to close out the win.
It's been a tough day so far for John Lackey, whose early-game difficulties have left the Sox in a 4-3 hole in the fifth inning.
The first four Seattle batters really set the tone early, with not a one of them getting out. Ichiro turned on an inside cutter, sending a ground ball down the first base line for a double. Franklin Guttierez' swinging bunt wasn't at all impressive, but it left a man on base just the same. Dustin Ackley walked to load the bases, and with the third ground ball hit of the inning, Mike Carp brought two men home. The Mariners have since scored in both the second and fourth to put up four runs on a starting pitcher who had, until today, seemed to be finding his stride in the second half.
While Boston's offense wasn't as fully-stocked to begin the night as it originally seemed, with both Kevin Youkilis and Marco Scutaro being late scratches, the lineup has done its job well enough to stay in the game. The Red Sox struck back in the second when David Ortiz lost a 1-1 fastball from Blake Beavan over the wall in dead center for a solo shot.
The second run of the inning would come in scarier fashion. After Carl Crawford lined a single into right and stole second, a hard-hit ground ball from Jarrod Saltalamacchia took a sudden hop at first, catching Justin Smoak in the face. The Seattle first baseman left the field after a lengthy injury delay and appears to have fractured his nose. With Carl Crawford now at third, Mike Aviles provided a sacrifice fly to, at the time, tie the game.
The Sox would go scoreless in the third and fourth, but received another run--and a very good sign--courtesy of Jed Lowrie in the fifth. The oft-injured shortstop offered his first real sign of life since returning by launching a solo shot from the left side of the plate into the stands in right--exactly the sort of thing the Sox are hoping to see more of from Lowrie as the year continues.
With John Lackey recording a 1-2-3 fifth, the Sox will head to bat in the sixth hoping that momentum has shifted.
The Red Sox will have a full lineup late Friday night to take on Blake Beavan and the Seattle Mariners.
The only absence from the usual group Friday will be Jed Lowrie, whose place on the team remains uncertain after his return to action against the Twins. Lowrie was just 1-for-7 with a walk against Minnesota, but the Sox can't help but consider his past flashes of absolute brilliance, such as he displayed at the end of the 2010 season. For now, though, the Sox seem ready to stick with Marco Scutaro much of the time--especially against right-handers.
Boston Red Sox (72-44)
Batting ninth for the Mariners tonight will be Trayvon Robinson, the main return for Seattle in the Erik Bedard trade. A top prospect for the Dodgers, Robinson made his debut for the Mariners last week, and while it's been rough going in the early days of his Major League career, the 23-year-old has spent much of the year killing the ball in Triple-A.
Seattle Mariners (50-66)
Pitching Matchup: John Lackey (10-8, 6.14 ERA) vs. Blake Beavan (3-2, 2.83 ERA)
Beavan proved quite the surprise when he first faced Boston last month. Going head-to-head with Josh Beckett, Beavan more than held his own for most of the game before running into seventh-inning trouble. Still, while Beavan did keep the Sox off the scoreboard for the most part, they weren't at a lack for solid contact, picking up nine hits and a good few line drive outs along the way. Even if Beavan pitches just as well against them tonight, there's no guarantee his defense will provide the same level of support.
It wasn't always pretty, but John Lackey is coming fresh off a quality start and win against the New York Yankees. Lackey is 5-0 in his last six games--a testament to his reliability since coming off the disabled list. The Red Sox have been providing him with some decent run support in that period, but there's no faking a 31:5 K:BB ratio. The last time he faced Seattle, Lackey provided seven innings of one-run ball, allowing just eight baserunners. If he can provide the same outing tonight, the Sox will be quite pleased indeed.
The Red Sox will head to the West Coast to take on the last team they swept back in July: the Seattle Mariners.
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