BOSTON – It’s not hard to imagine how the Seattle Mariners felt during each of their 30 losses. The difference this season may be how they handle their victories.
“We’ve played 48 games and had two laughers,” first baseman John Olerud said. “That’s not a lot of laughing.”
On Saturday, the Mariners had another grind-it-out-to-the-end game, beating the Boston Red Sox 5-4 with closer Eddie Guardado facing the potential winning run when he got the final out.
“Just another Mariners victory,” second baseman Bret Boone said.
He had a point.
Seattle has 18 wins this year and six of them have come by one run – four more by two runs. And somewhere in the middle of each of those wins, the Mariners have flirted with disaster.
Against Pedro Martinez on Friday, for instance, the Mariners took a 4-1 lead into the fifth inning – and were losing, 6-4, by the time the inning ended.
On Saturday, the Mariners racked up five runs in the first three innings against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield then stopped scoring altogether. And as they’ve had a way of doing all season, the Mariners watched their lead begin to shrink.
Seattle starter Freddy Garcia dominated the first three innings, allowing one baserunner.
Then, like Joel Pineiro a night earlier, he ran into trouble. Mark Bellhorn singled and one out later, Manny Ramirez hit one over the Green Monster in left field, cutting Garcia’s lead to 5-2. A pop fly fell for a double, a single put runners at first and third and …
“I had to make good pitches,” Garcia said.
He made one to rookie Kevin Youkillis, who topped a little grounder back to the mound for a double play – except Garcia bobbled the ball, got only the out at first and was visibly angry as Boston’s third run scooted home.
“This is 2004,” Garcia deadpanned. “I’m not that emotional out there.”
From the bench, manager Bob Melvin couldn’t help but experience a little deja vu.
“We’ve had four or five games this season that mirrored what happened the night before, and you try not to think about it in the dugout,” Melvin said. “But yeah, it felt a little familiar.”
In the field, it was the same for Mariners players.
“Nothing is every easy for us this year,” Boone said.
Garcia got out of the fourth inning, took a deep breath and then found himself in a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fifth. He worked out of that, too.
“The difference between today and the game last night is that when we had to, we got the pitch today,” pitching coach Bryan Price said. “Sometimes in a tight spot, pitchers tend to try to get hitters to chase pitches outside the strike zone – and they fall behind, they walk guys.
“When Freddy needed to today, he threw strikes. He made them swing, made them put the ball in play. You do that, you have a good chance.”
A pair of sixth-inning doubles cut the lead to 5-4 and chased Garcia 10 outs short of victory.
Left-hander Mike Myers came in and got three outs – three consecutive strikeouts. Shigetoshi Hasegawa was brought in to face Ramirez, gave up a single, then struck out Brian Daubach.
After Hasegawa worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning, the call went out to Guardado. He allowed a two-out single, but wound up retiring Jason Varitek, Johnny Damon and David Ortiz to earn his ninth save of the season.
The Mariners are 3-2 on this six-game road swing through Cleveland and Boston, and Guardado has a save in each of Seattle’s wins.
“In spring training, this is more how we envisioned the bullpen,” Melvin said. “Our relievers got huge outs today with no margin for error.”
If the Mariners hadn’t scored early, they wouldn’t have scored at all.
Wakefield couldn’t get his knuckleball down in the second inning, and Boone, Olerud and Dave Hansen had hits and the Mariners had a 1-0 lead before Boston got an out.
Dan Wilson doubled home two for a 3-0 lead, Raul Ibanez homered in the third inning and Rich Aurilia drove in Hansen a few moments later.
After that? Nothing.
“We had three guys at third base with less than two outs and didn’t score them,” Melvin said. “You get those runs home with an out, it’s a totally different game.”
But then it wouldn’t be a Mariners game.
“I’d like a few more laughs,” Olerud said.