Seattle Mariners' Brendan Ryan in action against the Boston Red Sox in a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
SEATTLE—A bad habit the Seattle Mariners picked up while cruising to a string of second-half wins was relying on one or two innings in which to score all of their runs.
That trend caught up to them Tuesday night, when they took an early lead on the Boston Red Sox and then failed to build their margin. A couple of big sixth-inning home run swings by Boston later, the Mariners were on their way to a 4-3 loss in a game in which they appeared in complete command.
Cody Ross stunned the crowd of 12,754 at Safeco Field with a three-run homer in the sixth off Mariners starter Blake Beavan, followed by a solo shot moments later from Ryan Lavarnway. That was all the scoring Boston needed to snap a seven-game losing streak as the Red Sox shut down Seattle’s offense the final six innings.
Eric Thames hit a two-out triple in the ninth against Andrew Bailey to make things interesting. But Kyle Seager hit a fly ball to right that was caught for the final out.
The Mariners have gone 15 consecutive games in which they’ve done all of their scoring in just an inning or two. They own a respectable 8-7 record over that stretch, but it’s only 1-5 against teams that are .500 or better, the lone victory a win Sunday over the Angels to avoid a series sweep.
Seattle’s inability to spread scoring around throughout a game has been a seasonlong concern for manager Eric Wedge. The current streak of scoring in two or fewer innings actually began against the Cleveland Indians on Seattle’s last homestand, in which the Mariners still managed to sweep and extend their winning streak to eight.
But the luck changed in Chicago the next series, when the Mariners scored early on the White Sox in each game but still got swept.
Seattle failed to score after the third inning Tuesday, helped by the inability of Thames and Trayvon Robinson to lay down bunts after the leadoff man reached base in the seventh and eighth innings. Thames later struck out and Robinson popped out on his bunt try.
The Red Sox entered the game in the midst of a crisis that had seen them lose a weeks worth of games to send speculation swirling about the future of manager Bobby Valentine. A visit to Seattle by team owner John Henry on Monday did little to quell the angst surrounding the ballclub.
Seattle once again looked like it would roll over the hapless visitors as Jesus Montero hit the first of three singles to drive home Dustin Ackley in the first inning. Red Sox starter Jon Lester threw 31 pitches that inning and looked like he wouldn’t last much longer, especially when Franklin Gutierrez and Kyle Seager hit back-to-back home runs for a 3-0 lead to start the third inning.
The Mariners were cruising by that point, but things slowed a bit right after that. Gutierrez made a diving catch of a Jacoby Ellsbury fly ball in the first inning that seemed to shake him up a bit. By the time the fourth inning began, Gutierrez was out of the game for precautionary reasons with what the Mariners said was tightness in his groin. Casper Wells started the game in right field and slid over to take Gutierrez’s spot while Thames entered to play right.
The Mariners have said repeatedly how much they miss Gutierrez’s offense and seemed to demonstrate it by going into an offensive slumber against Lester the next three innings, allowing him to make it through the sixth on 111 pitches.
Boston finally woke up in that sixth against Beavan, with a pair of hard singles to right then a mammoth shot to left field by Ross that tied the score. Beavan barely had time to get over that before Lavarnway absolutely drilled a 1-0 fastball well beyond the left-field wall to put Boston ahead 4-3.
It was the deepest Boston had led in a game since the start of its losing streak.
The Mariners had a chance to tie it in the seventh with a pair of singles off Craig Breslow that put two on with one out. Right-hander Junichi Tazawa came on to face Montero, who scorched what looked like his fourth hit of the night.
But the ball went right at first baseman James Loney for the second out. Justin Smoak then popped out in foul territory on the third-base side to end the threat.