SEATTLE — The Mariners have learned the hard way that early leads against the Red Sox may beat the alternative, but they’re hardly the guarantee of a positive outcome.
That point was driven home again on Thursday in a tough 8-7, 10-inning loss to Boston at Safeco Field. The Mariners dropped the final three games in the series after a promising win in the opener.
For the second time in three days, they jumped ahead 5-1 early, only to watch the Red Sox storm back to catch them in the fifth, and then win it off Tom Wilhelmsen in the 10th.
The winning rally began with a superb at-bat by “the kid catcher,’’ as Mariners’ manager Eric Wedge referred to 25-year-old Ryan Lavarnway. He fouled off five two-strike pitches before Wilhelmsen yielded ball four, which he knew instantly was an ominous development.
“I think it’s like a baseball god rule,’’ Wilhelmsen said. “You walk a batter to lead off an inning, they’re scoring.”
Pinch-runner Jackie Bradley Jr. moved to second on a sacrifice but Wilhelmsen struck out Jose Iglesias.
After walking red-hot Jacoby Ellsbury intentionally, Wilhelmsen had a 1-2 count on Daniel Nava and was one strike from getting out of the jam.
But Nava hit a bounder up the middle that barely eluded Wilhelmsen’s glove on its way into center field for a single that brought in Bradley.
“I just missed it,’’ said a sighing Wilhelmsen. “I don’t know. I saw it. My arm wasn’t like Go-Go Gadget enough, I guess, to run out there.”
When Koji Uehara put the Mariners down in order in the bottom of the 10th, thus ended another frustrating day for the Mariners in which their awakening offense was completely stymied by rookie knuckleballer Steven Wright.
Making his second career appearance — the first resulted in five runs over 32 / 3 innings against the A’s back in April — the newly recalled Wright blanked the Mariners on three hits over 52 / 3 innings. That enabled Boston’s comeback after the Mariners had jumped on starter Ryan Dempster for nine hits and seven runs (four earned) in 31 / 3 innings.
“That was probably the story of the game,’’ Mariners manager Eric Wedge said of Wright.
sRamirez, who once walked five batters in 88 innings in an entire minor-league season, issued four base on balls and also hit a batter in 42 / 3 innings. That’s in addition to giving up six hits, a mishmash that resulted in seven runs charged to Ramirez.
“He just didn’t have the command he needed to have,’’ Wedge said. “It’s his first start up here, so you have to take that in consideration. But he’s been up here before. He has to pitch to his strength, and a big part of his strength is commanding the baseball, using all his pitches and executing his pitches.”
Ramirez had walked six in his final outing for Tacoma before being called up Thursday to replace Jeremy Bonderman in Seattle’s rotation, so it’s an ongoing issue.
“All I could do is continue throwing the ball, and try to make quality pitches, but I didn’t and they made me pay for that,’’ Ramirez said.
The solace, Ramirez said, is that his arm feels great after the 23-year-old spent the first two months of the season on the disabled list with an elbow injury.
“Being able to pitch and feel good is the best feeling I’ve got right now,’’ he said. “I don’t like to lose, but it’s part of the game. I have to work on my mistakes and try to be better next time.”
Ramirez facing the most productive offense in the majors, one that Wedge would love to have his team emulate.
“In regard to grinding through at-bats, they have two of the greatest examples in the game in (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. Ellsbury’s about as hot as anyone can be. All the other guys, they watch it day and day out.”
The Mariners have scored 30 runs in the four games against Boston despite losing three of them. In this one, Kyle Seager homered in the second off Dempster, giving the Mariners a home run in 19 consecutive games, matching their club record.
“Our offense has been a lot better,’’ Wedge said. “That’s been obvious. We’ve been fighting and going deeper in counts, and we did it today.”
But in the end, all it got them was another loss.