SEATTLE — Often in baseball, when a team scores seven runs and chases a starting pitcher before the end of the fourth inning, that team is going to have a pretty good day.
But that scenario, which played out for the Seattle Mariners Thursday, wasn’t enough for a victory. While the M’s did find success against Boston starter Ryan Dempster, they were stymied for 52⁄3 innings by knuckleballer Steven Wright after he took over in the fourth inning in just his second major-league appearance.
And as Seattle right-hander Erasmo Ramirez struggled with his command in his first start of the season, the Red Sox were able to rally from 5-1 and 7-4 deficits for an 8-7 victory in 10 innings. It was their third consecutive win over Seattle after the Mariners won Monday’s series opener in blowout fashion.
“That was probably the story of the game, it really was,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said of Wright’s performance. “When he came out there and really held us down, that was probably the story of the game for them and us.”
After Boston jumped ahead when Jacoby Ellsbury led off the game with a home run deep to right field, the Mariners built a big lead, scoring four runs in the second inning and one in the third. Then when Boston got to Ramirez for three runs in the fourth, the Mariners answered with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the inning on RBI singles by Kendrys Morales and Kyle Seager to go up 7-4.
That was the end of it for Seattle. Once Wright gave up that single to Seager after entering the game, he allowed just two more hits and struck out three while shutting out the Mariners the rest of the way.
“A knuckleball isn’t something you see every day, and he was obviously real effective,” Seager said. “He was throwing it for strikes, and it’s a pretty unpredictable pitch, so it’s hard to time it up. … It’s such a different pitch, it’s something that you don’t see every day.”
The Red Sox finally broke through with the go-ahead run in the 10th when Daniel Nava drove in pinch runner Jackie Bradley Jr. with a two-out single up the middle. Koji Uehara then worked a 1-2-3 bottom half of the inning for the save.
Of course, had Ramirez had been better in his debut, Wright’s outing would have been classified as mop-up duty, not the most important performance of the game. However, for the third time in as many days, the Red Sox, baseball’s highest scoring team, did a number on Seattle’s starting pitching.
On Tuesday, the usually reliable Hisashi Iwakuma lasted just three innings and gave up six runs. A day later Aaron Harang gave up seven runs in five innings. On Thursday, Ramirez was the latest victim of Boston’s bats. A
It wasn’t just that the Red Sox hit the ball hard in the series — which they did quite often. It was their ability to work deep into counts to make life tough on pitchers. That patience helped set up the winning run, with Ryan Lavarnway working a leadoff walk in the 10th against Tom Wilhelmsen that ended up leading to the winning run.
“They’ve got two of the greatest examples in the game when you talk about (Dustin) Pedroia and (David) Ortiz,” Wedge said. “They’re MVPs, they’re All Stars, they’ve been doing it for years. They take it to another level. Then Ellsbury is about as hot as anybody can be, and all those other guys, they watch that day in and day out. The at-bat there in the 10th by (Lavarnway), he kept fighting, fouling off balls, then took ball four and it ended up being the winning run.”
If there is any silver lining to be found in losing three of four games at home and having three starting pitchers get pounded by the Red Sox, it is that the Mariners put up 30 runs in four games and got production up and down the lineup. Early in Monday’s game, the Mariners snapped an 0-for-25 stretch hitting with runners in scoring position, and the early part of Wednesday’s game notwithstanding, they hit well for the entire series.
“Our offense has been a lot better, that’s obvious,” Wedge said. “We’ve been going deeper in counts, we’ve been fighting and making them work, and we did it again today. Dempster had a ton of pitches early on.”
In the end, however, making Dempster throw a ton of pitches only opened the door for Wright’s star performance.
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com.