SEATTLE – The Seattle Mariners are watching momentum build before their eyes, and a collection of young players and veterans is gaining a true belief in what they can accomplish.
A 2-1 victory Wednesday over the Boston Red Sox in 11 innings offered further evidence that the Mariners might be in this for the long haul, even though the All-Star break remains 10 games away.
Jose Lopez’s double off the left-field wall to score Ichiro Suzuki with the winning run gave the Mariners five straight victories and a three-game sweep over one of baseball’s best teams.
“As the season goes, you’re either going to really gain confidence in each other or lose confidence in each other,” said pitcher George Sherrill, one of five Mariners relievers to shut down the Red Sox. “This team is gaining confidence minute by minute.”
The victory pulled the Mariners nine games over .500 for the second time this season, and they’re within five games of the first-place Angels in the American League West Division after Kansas City completed a three-game sweep in Anaheim.
The Mariners are 8-2 on this homestand, which resumes Friday against Toronto after a day off today. Such a run of success, especially against a Red Sox team that had gone 7-2 coming into the series, leads to a logical question:
What happened in that five-game losing streak to end the last road trip?
“We were tired,” Sherrill said. “That’s an excuse, but you could look at us and tell we were dragging.”
The Mariners had played 33 games in 34 days before getting a day off June 18.
“That day off was huge for us,” Sherrill said. “I think it’s shown that it rejuvenated us a little bit. Now we’ve got another one, and hopefully this will take us strong into the All-Star break.”
In order to turn an already good series against the Red Sox into a great one, the Mariners first needed to figure out Boston starter Daisuke Matsuzaka and get a quality outing from their own pitcher, 21-year-old Ryan Feierabend.
The M’s solved Matsuzaka essentially for two pitches in the third inning.
Backup catcher Jamie Burke blooped a double that got under the glove of diving center fielder Coco Crisp, and Suzuki drove him home with a bloop single to center.
Feierabend shut out the Red Sox for five innings, getting crucial outs in the second, third and fifth to escape with runners in scoring position.
Manager Mike Hargrove put the game in the hands of his relievers and they came through again.
Sean Green pitched 11/3 innings without an earned run, although his throwing error on a sacrifice bunt in the seventh led to Boston’s only run, when Crisp hit a sacrifice fly that tied the score 1-1.
Sherrill, who struck out David Ortiz on Tuesday, got him with one pitch Wednesday, a fly to center for the second out of the seventh. Right-hander Brandon Morrow pitched 11/3 scoreless, J.J. Putz plowed through the ninth and Jason Davis pitched two scoreless innings to give the Mariners a chance to win.
They finally did, against a familiar face.
Joel Pineiro, who played six seasons with the Mariners before signing with the Red Sox as a free agent last winter, got Burke on a grounder for the first out in the bottom of the 11th, but he walked Suzuki. Then Lopez came to the plate and knew what he would see from Pineiro.
“I knew he was coming with a fastball,” Lopez said. “He threw it to me and I tried to hit it to the gap.”
Lopez missed the gap slightly with his high fly, but Ramirez was playing near the left-field line and had a long run to reach the ball. He came within inches, and the ball bounced midway up the wall and back toward the field.
Suzuki scored the winning run without a play and, at second base where Lopez ended up, teammates mobbed him.
As welcome as the victory became, so is the day off today. Sherrill, who has pitched four straight days, was eager to get some rest.
“The only thing I’m going to do,” he said, “is put a dent in my couch.”