By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
BOSTON — It started off poorly and got no better.
The Mariners hope their sloppy 8-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night at Fenway Park won’t be harbinger of what’s to come on this East Coast road trip.
This isn’t the Astros or the Twins that the Mariners will be facing. They have two more games with the Red Sox (64-44) followed by three with the Orioles (59-48). Both teams have legitimate playoff aspirations, while Seattle (50-56) is still in a constant fight to get to .500.
In this first game against Boston, one team looked like a postseason participant and it sure wasn’t the Mariners. If there is an expectation of success over the next five games, they will need to play better in every aspect. The Mariners weren’t particularly sharp in any on Tuesday.
Seattle’s best moment came in the first inning when Nick Franklin doubled to left field off of Boston starter Brandon Workman and later scored on Kendrys Morales’ single to center. It gave the Mariners a very short-lived 1-0 lead.
From there, things went downhill quickly.
Seattle was sloppy early on behind starter Joe Saunders. Shane Victorino delivered a one-out double and then Dustin Pedroia reached base on Brad Miller’s error while fielding a routine ground ball to shortstop.
Victorino scored from third on a passed ball from Henry Blanco and then David Ortiz singled home Pedroia.
“We didn’t play real clean there early on,” acting manager Robby Thompson said. “Sometimes that happens.”
Miller, who also made a bad decision trying to bare-hand a ground ball from the slow-running Jarrod Saltalamacchia, owned up to the mistakes, which can’t be made in the big leagues.
“It is another level,” Miller said. “It’s the same things and you have to be better at executing them. If you don’t, it will be exposed for sure.”
Things fell apart for Saunders in the second.
He gave up a one-out solo homer to Jacoby Ellsbury and later a two-run homer to Pedroia that made it 5-1.
“I was throwing good pitches,” Saunders said. “I wasn’t getting much help.”
When asked if he was talking about home plate umpire Chris Conroy or his defense, Saunders shrugged it off.
“It was just in general,” he said. “I don’t really want to talk about either because I will get myself in trouble. It was just a tough night for us. We didn’t get the breaks. And they got some breaks. It was just one of those nights.”
Saunders’ growing pitch count already had him in trouble.
He worked a clean third inning, but then gave up another double to Victorino and an RBI single to Pedroia to make it 6-1. He worked another inning, but was done at 99 pitches, having given up six runs (five earned) on nine hits with a walk and five strikeouts. It was the seventh time this season he’s allowed six or more runs.
There was some thought Saunders might have some value on the trade market. With the non-waiver trade deadline looming today at 1 p.m., Saunders’ perceived value might have diminished in the last few weeks. Over his past three starts, he has pitched 15 innings and allowed 27 hits that helped produce 15 runs (13 earned). His earned run average for the span is 7.80.
Did talk of possibly being traded affect him?
“I don’t think so,” he said. “You just go out there and pitch. It’s out of your hands. If you can’t control it, why would you worry about it? I’d like to stay here. I love playing here. I think we have a good thing going with these guys.”
The Mariners had a chance to make it a game in the sixth. They loaded the bases against Workman with one out on consecutive singles by Kyle Seager, Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez. However, Workman came back to strike out Michael Morse for the third time in the night and then struck out Justin Smoak.
“A lot could have happened in that inning, but it didn’t happen,” Thompson said.
Brandon Maurer replaced Saunders in the sixth and looked sharp early in his debut as reliever. Maurer retired the side in order in the sixth and seventh inning. In the eighth, he left a fastball up to Saltalamacchia, who hammered it into right-center for a two-run homer. He still worked three innings, giving up the two runs on two hits with a strikeout and no walks.
“I thought that was big for Maurer, his first time coming out of the pen here in Boston of all places,” Thompson said. “I thought he threw the ball very well. He really helped us out.”
Seattle’s other run came in the ninth. Smoak singled and later scored on Blanco’s single off the Green Monster.
“We had our backs up against the wall early on,” Thompson said. “And we were never able to make a run at it.”