BOSTON — For about two innings, it looked as though victory seemed possible if not plausible. The Seattle Mariners delivered a four-run punch to Boston Red Sox starter Rick Porcello in the top of the first inning, while their starter, Felix Hernandez, put up an easy 1-2-3 first inning and worked his way out of what could’ve been a disastrous second inning.
But this isn’t the same Boston team the Mariners faced early in the season. That version of the Red Sox was a disjointed mess that seemed to have skipped spring training due to an incurable World Series hangover. This current version of the Red Sox is starting to resemble the run-scoring juggernaut of 2018.
Well, his escape act ended in disaster in an eight-run third inning that there was no recovery from for an offense that would only muster one more run the rest of the game.
A day after falling under .500 for the first time this season, Seattle dropped another game below with a forgettable 9-5 loss at Fenway Park.
“Not the way we drew it up, pitching-wise,” said acting manager Manny Acta. “We gave Felix a little bit of cushion and we felt like it would buy us some time, unfortunately he couldn’t stop them.”
To be fair, the Red Sox offense is rolling. Boston has scored 89 runs and bashed 22 homers in its past 12 games for an average of 7.4 runs per game.
“They just grind out at-bats against all of our pitchers,” Acta said. “It took us 130-something pitches just to get through five innings.”
It was the Mariners’ third straight defeat and seventh loss in nine games of the 10-game road trip.
On Saturday, Hernandez looked like an average pitcher just trying to survive against an offense he knew he couldn’t stop or even slow down. The coaching staff knew it was a possibility based on his warm-ups in the bullpen.
“He didn’t warm up very well,” Acta said. “Our pitching coaches were worried about that. They didn’t feel like the ball was coming out hot out of his hand. We’ve seen that before in the past and the guy will come out and pitch well and vice versa where sometimes guys throw the heck out of it in the bullpen and then get lit up.”
Hernandez hoped he could find a way when he entered the game.
“It was just one of those days that you don’t feel that well,” he said.
His teammates gave him a nice 4-0 lead in the first inning. Daniel Vogelbach and Domingo Santana swatted back-to-back run-scoring doubles with two outs and Jay Bruce whacked his 12th homer of the season — a two-run shot to right field.
Hernandez worked a 1-2-3 first inning, which had previously been a hint that he might have a productive outing. And he hoped he could replicate it and get through at least five. But his lack of command became evident and the Red Sox went into grind mode on him.
Mitch Moreland led off the second inning with a solo homer. After a walk by Xander Bogaerts and a single from Rafael Devers, Hernandez found himself facing runners on the corners and nobody out. He responded by striking out Michael Chavis and Jackie Bradley Jr. and getting Sandy Leon to pop out to end the inning and limit the damage.
An emotionally engaged Hernandez let out a scream and stalked to the visitors’ dugout in celebration.
His next walk to the dugout would be a head-down trudge with the only emotion being disgust.
After getting Andrew Benintendi to line out sharply to start the third inning, Hernandez wouldn’t record another out against the next six batters he faced. The 4-0 lead was gone and Hernandez had shown no signs of executing well enough to slow down the Red Sox while throwing 40 pitches in the inning.
Acta went to the bullpen, bringing in lefty Roenis Elias to try and keep the game competitive. Elias rewarded Acta by promptly giving up a two-run single to Jackie Bradley Jr. with both runs charged to Hernandez and then serving up a two-run homer to Sandy Leon with those runs going his ERA.
“We hoped Felix could keep us in the game for at least four innings,” Acta said. “We went to (Roenis) Elias because he was well rested and the game was still there, but it got out of hand there.”
The never-ending inning finally came to a close when Benintendi made his second out in the frame and rookie Shed Long, playing in his first MLB game, made a nice diving stop and throw to first to get Betts. Eleven batters came to the plate in the inning, six got hits and eight runs were scored. The 4-1 lead was now an unrecoverable 9-4 deficit.
Hernandez’s official line was 2 1/3 innings pitched, six runs allowed on seven hits with three walks and three strikeouts. It was his worst outing since dizziness from food poisoning forced him out of the first inning of his start on April 8 vs. the Royals.
Omar Narvaez broke an eight-inning scoreless drought with a solo homer to right in the ninth inning.