SEATTLE – In lieu of other things they’ve tried, the Seattle Mariners’ next great hope for production from their meek offense may lie in the weather.
They say hitters warm up when the temperature does. But a 72-degree Saturday night at Safeco Field did little to help a team that continues to score in drips, this time in a 5-3 Mariners loss to the Boston Red Sox.
The Mariners got a two-run homer in the second inning from Yuniesky Betancourt – their No. 8 hitter – and little from the rest when even a fly ball could have changed the game.
The Mariners had closed within a run, at 4-3, and had a runner on third base with nobody out in the fourth inning. And they didn’t score.
“I think it’s a different ballgame if we score that run,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “We’ve got to be able to drive that run in by whatever means.”
Ground ball through the drawn-in infield. Sacrifice fly.
Instead, with Russell Branyan on third after his RBI double:
•Wladimir Balentien hit a grounder toward the left-side hole, only to have shortstop Julio Lugo stop it with a dive to his right and throw to first for the out. Branyan had no choice but to stay at third.
•Kenji Johjima followed with an easy-out bouncer to second, again forcing Branyan to stay.
•Betancourt, the once-impatient hitter who’s been on a walk-fest the past two games, drew another against Red Sox starter Josh Beckett before Endy Chavez flied out to right, ending the inning … and the opportunity.
“This game was really about the fourth inning when we didn’t capitalize and get the one run in,” Wakamatsu said.
Even a tie score would have been temporary because Mariners starter Garrett Olson, who allowed two-run homers in each of the first two innings, served up a solo shot to Jeff Bailey leading off the fifth.
Still, a one-run deficit would have made it a much different task for the Mariners.
“It’s a different ballgame when it’s a one-run game as opposed to a two-run game,” Wakamatsu said. “It allows us to manufacture. We’ve got to score that.”
Despite two opposite-field doubles from Branyan, who drove home Adrian Beltre from first base in the fourth, the middle of the Mariners’ batting order remained an area of little production.
Branyan went 2 for 3 with a walk, but Ken Griffey Jr. went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts against Beckett and Beltre went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts. Beltre reached on an error in the fourth. Griffey is batting .205 with three home runs and seven RBIs; Beltre .216 with two homers and 15 RBIs.
The Red Sox managed three big swings off Olson, who made a spot start because Erik Bedard had a tender hamstring. Olson was victimized by his walks as much as the three home runs he allowed.
He walked J.D. Drew with two outs in the first inning before Bay homered deep into the Red Sox bullpen for a 2-0 lead. He walked Lugo with one out in the second before Varitek homered to left.
“It wasn’t so much about the home runs off Olson, but the two walks prior to the home runs,” Wakamatsu said. “He gave up the one home run later, but the last four innings he pitched pretty good.”
The Mariners couldn’t match those three swings, even though they had chances large and small. On Friday night, the Mariners came back from four runs behind to beat the Red Sox. Saturday night, even a smaller margin was too much.
“It’s awfully tough playing a club like Boston and getting into a hole right out of the chute,” Wakamatsu said. “Tonight we weren’t able to come back and get them.”
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