Red Sox take advantage of relievers’ struggles
BOSTON — A frustrated Miguel Batista was upset with himself for denying the Mariners a shot at their first series sweep here in 32 years.
Batista spoke over and over again about “going against my own scouting report” with a pitch he threw to Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox that caused the seventh inning of Sunday afternoon’s game to unravel. Pedroia lined a single to put two men on, David Ortiz hit a tying single and the command-challenged Mariners went on to give up five runs in the inning in an 8-4 loss. It prevented a Fenway Park sweep for the first time in Mariners history.
Batista and Mark Lowe struggled to find the strike zone in an inning that saw the Mariners issue four walks, putting a damper on the end of an otherwise strong road trip against some of baseball’s top teams.
“I just went against my scouting report and that’s what caused me to be out of the game early,” Batista said. “One pitch. It wasn’t the walk, it wasn’t David (Ortiz) either. … It was two or three hitters before that, when I went against my scouting report and they got an extra runner.”
Batista was referring to how he challenged Pedroia with a 1-1 pitch.
“You never want to challenge a good hitter if you don’t have to,” Batista said.
Lowe didn’t challenge the hitters enough, throwing eight of his first nine pitches for balls after replacing Batista and walking in the go-ahead run. He then served up a two-run single to Mark Kotsay. The Red Sox salvaged the finale in front of 37,691 fans by scoring all five runs with two out.
The bullpen was key to the Mariners finishing this trip with a 5-4 record. But signs of overuse popped up multiple times the final few days and finally caught up to the Mariners on Sunday.
Batista threw four innings and 57 pitches in the series against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, then another 30 pitches over two outings against the Yankees in New York before being trotted out Sunday as one of Seattle’s few relatively “fresh” bullpen arms. Lowe was working for the third time in four days and never seemed to find his command.
Sean White came on after him and fired a pitch that got by Kenji Johjima for a passed ball and the final Boston run.
Seattle played arguably its worst game of the weekend, yet had a 4-3 lead going into the seventh. Starter Brandon Morrow gave up solo home runs to Pedroia and Ortiz in the first inning, then another to Jacoby Ellsbury in the sixth that cut the Mariners’ lead to a run.
But he also escaped a fifth-inning jam, striking out Ortiz with two men on before handing his bullpen the lead after six.
“I’ve been throwing my change-up real well. I think it’s gotten better every outing,” said Morrow, who worked in more off-speed stuff after a 22-pitch first inning. “And today, I think it was the best. I was throwing a lot of strikes with it and those are things we’ve been working on in the bullpen.”
Morrow used an 89 mph change-up to get a swinging strike on Ortiz with two on and two out and a 2-1 count to Ortiz in the fifth. Ortiz later fouled off an 86 mph slider before Morrow froze him with a 97 mph fastball for a called third strike.
The Mariners used a little luck to score all their runs in the fourth and fifth innings.
They notched three in the fourth off Red Sox starter Jon Lester on a two-strike, bases-loaded Ronny Cedeno triple off the end of his bat. It landed just inside the right-field line and eluded a sliding Drew.
That came right after the Red Sox botched a potential inning-ending double-play grounder by Johjima when second baseman Pedroia dropped the relay throw.
Seattle got lucky again in the fifth when Franklin Gutierrez, in a 10-pitch at-bat, chopped an infield hit that stopped dead on the grass and loaded the bases with one out. Ryan Langerhans followed with a sacrifice fly.
But the Mariners failed to record a hit after that, allowing Lester to make it through 6 2/3 frames with nine strikeouts on 122 pitches. Then, the Seattle bullpen couldn’t finish the job.
“Obviously, with Batista and Lowe, these are two guys who have been awfully big for us on this road trip,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. “I think … the command of both of them just left them today. It was a tough outing for both of them, but again, we wouldn’t be in this position, going 5-4 on a tough, tough road trip, without those guys.”
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