SEATTLE — The run that was, and then wasn’t, helped the Seattle Mariners beat the Boston Red Sox 5-4 Saturday night.
Mariners starter Felix Hernandez pitched with the luxury of a five-run lead after the first inning, but the defining play was a crushing collision at home plate and
then the umpires’ decision to change a call and take a run away from the Red Sox.
It was the most volatile moment of a high-drama night marked by an inning of big offense by each team and huge plays by both defenses, plus the energy of Mariners and Red Sox fans who comprised a crowd of 41,326 at Safeco Field. It was the Mariners’ third-largest home crowd this season, and the largest since they drew 45,470 on June 19 against the Phillies.
They witnessed a quick launch by the Mariners’ offense against Red Sox starter Josh Beckett, then a hold-your-breath finish that came down to the final pitch.
Ichiro Suzuki hit Beckett’s first pitch of the game over the right-field fence for his second leadoff home run this season — and the 34th of his career.
Then the Mariners kept hitting.
Franklin Gutierrez singled, Dustin Ackley doubled and Mike Carp, one of the leagues hottest hitters since he was called up July 19, drove them both home with a double.
After newly called-up slugger Wily Mo Pena flied to center for the first out, Casper Wells drove a 1-1 pitch from Beckett over the fence in left-center for a two-run homer and a 5-0 Mariners lead.
“It was great to see us come out and really be aggressive and jump on them early, especially against a guy like Beckett,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “When you’re facing those type guys, you’ve got to get to them early.”
The rally gave Hernandez something rare — a big lead.
Hernandez entered the game 12th in the American League with 3.76 runs of support, and he pitched early in the game like the five runs would be plenty. He cruised through three innings facing the minimum number of hitters, allowing Jason Varitek’s one-out single in the third for Boston’s first hit but erasing that runner with a double play.
Hernandez ran into trouble when he walked Jacoby Ellsbury to start the third, setting up a play that left Mariners catcher Josh Bard woozy on the dirt at home plate and both teams’ managers arguing with plate umpire Mark Ripperger.
Ellsbury reached third after an error and Carl Crawford’s infield hit. With one out, Dustin Pedroia hit a high fly to medium-depth right field.
A Suzuki caught the ball for the second out, Ellsbury launched from third base. Suzuki made a one-hop throw to Bard, who caught it in time to tag out Ellsbury, who was sliding hard into the plate.
Ripperger called Ellsbury safe, and the Mariners — on the field and in the dugout — couldn’t believe the call.
Hernandez immediately argued with the umpire and manager Eric Wedge bolted from the dugout. Bard, meanwhile, lay stunned on the ground but, for a moment, had the presence to show the baseball to prove he held onto it.
“I said my piece when I was out there,” Wedge said. “Then he (Ripperger) asked me to give him a second.”
Ripperger called all of the umpires together — with Red Sox manager Terry Francona standing nearby — and after several seconds they reversed the call and ruled Ellsbury out, leaving the score 5-0.
Francona jumped into Ripperger’s face and immediately was ejected.
“Ichiro did a good job getting behind that ball on the throw,” Wedge said. “Really, a perfect throw. The separator there was Josh Bard, hanging onto that ball and blocking the plate. They collided pretty good there.
“It ended up being a bigger play than we thought at the time.”
Hernandez pitched five shutout innings, but he allowed the leadoff hitter to reach base in the third, fourth and fifth but escaped with the help of two double plays.
In the sixth, when Marco Scutaro led off with a triple, Hernandez couldn’t wiggle out of that one.
Ellsbury followed with a two-run homer and, after Adrian Gonzalez bunted for a single against the Mariners’ infield shift that opened up the left side of the infield, Pedroia drove a two-strike pitch from Hernandez for another two-run homer.
Suddenly, a five-run Mariners lead became one, and the Mariners needed big pitches and key plays to keep it that way.
Hernandez got another double play to escape the seventh. Reliever Jamey Wright allowed a leadoff hit to Gonzalez in the eighth before getting Pedroia on a grounder back to the mound for another double play, the Mariners’ fourth of the game.
“That was big,” Wedge said. “Any time you have an opportunity to get two outs with one pitch, especially against a good-hitting club, that’s a separator for you.”
Bard was just as important.
He not only shook off the collision with Ellsbury in the fourth, he blocked several pitches in the dirt and, in the eighth, threw out pinch runner Darnell McDonald on a steal attempt with two outs in the eighth.
“Josh stepped up again,” Wedge said.
Mariners closer Brandon League made the ninth a little less eventful, striking out Josh Reddick and Jed Lowrie, then getting Varitek on a bouncer back to the mound to end the game. League recorded his 28th save.
Read Kirby Arnold’s blog on the Mariners at www.heraldnet.com/marinersblog and follow his Twitter updates at @kirbyarnold.