BOSTON — This game of inches was not breaking the Seattle Mariners’ way in the early going.
Seattle had to deal with the third-inning ejection of Milton Bradley after a bad call at first base that he wasn’t involved in, not to mention a handful of questionable strike calls on the outside corner. But the Mariners soon had plenty of bounces and calls going their way in what became a 2-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday night that seemed to leave the Fenway Park faithful in a state of shock.
The Red Sox missed a pair of home runs by a couple of feet, then some potential doubles down the line by mere inches as they continually filled the bases without scoring. And then, just when things looked bleak for Doug Fister and company, the Mariners got a huge break on a blown call at second base in the fifth inning that got them out of a jam with their shutout intact.
It all added up to the fifth consecutive win by Seattle on this road trip and a second straight here, in front of 37,901 fans, with Felix Hernandez set to pitch Sunday’s finale. The victory was a sixth straight overall on the road by the Mariners, their most in two seasons.
The Mariners broke the scoring ice in the third inning, when Bradley, mired in an 0-for-22 slump, lined a double into the left field corner off Red Sox starter John Lackey to score Ichiro. Chone Figgins stopped at third on the play, leaving two on with one out.
Miguel Olivo then chopped a ball to Kevin Youkilis at third base. Youkilis pump-faked the throw to first, trying to draw Figgins too far off third.
But Youkilis hesitated too long before finally throwing to first and Olivo appeared to clearly beat the play to the bag. Replays seemed to confirm this, but first-base umpire Todd Tichenor called Olivo out, bringing Mariners manager Eric Wedge leaping from the dugout to argue.
Wedge had his say, but to no avail and headed back to the dugout. Bradley, meanwhile, was still standing on second and also began jawing at Tichenor.
Second-base umpire Gerry Davis, who happened to be the crew chief and was right next to Bradley, promptly ejected him from the game. Bradley then got into it with Davis, but Wedge quickly hustled back out to pull him away and then started arguing with the umpire again.
The Mariners scored no more runs in the inning, but got the lead.
And Fister, who had needed 31 pitches to survive a bases-loaded jam in the first, kept sidestepping trouble the rest of the way.
The Mariners proved time and again that baseball really can be a game of inches, managing to avoid a pair of potential home runs that hit the top of the Green Monster in left field and fell back down for doubles in the fifth and sixth innings. Both times, though, no runs scored.
Fister was particularly fortunate to escape the fifth after Boston loaded the bases with nobody out and Adrian Gonzalez at the plate. One pitch later, the 87th of the game by Fister, there were two out and still two on after the Mariners caught what might have been a “make up” call from umpire Davis at second.
Gonzalez had lined the ball right into the glove of Jack Wilson, who flipped to Brendan Ryan at second in an attempt to double off Jacoby Ellsbury. But Ellsbury appeared to dive back in with time to spare and replays seemed to confirm it until Davis called him out — much to the chagrin of the groaning home crowd.
Youkilis then fouled out behind first base to end the inning.
Fister somehow made it through 5-2/3 innings on 108 pitches before Aaron Laffey came on with two on and two out in the sixth and got Jarrod Saltalamacchia to foul out to Olivo on a nice play near the stands.
Laffey then had to work out of a seventh-inning jam with runners on second and third, two out and David Ortiz up. The Mariners opted not to intentionally walk the go-ahead run — with left-handed hitting J.D. Drew up next — and saw Ortiz rip a long, somewhat dangerous looking foul ball to left on the very first pitch.
But Laffey hung in there and — with the count 2-2 — saw Ortiz loft a fly ball to left that was caught just ahead of the warning track by Ryan Langerhans for the final out.