BOSTON – The vanquished ace stood in as quiet a visitors’ clubhouse as you’ll ever see and ruminated over the bounces that can change a season.
All around Felix Hernandez, his Mariners teammates and coaches ate their postgame meals in silence Friday night, the dominant sound being that of a soft-drink refrigerator with a softly humming motor. This 13th straight defeat, a 7-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox, had snuffed out any other audible life.
But if you got close enough, you could also make out the sound of Hernandez mumbling words of disbelief as he tried to explain what has befallen a team that was competing for a playoff spot just more than two weeks ago.
“I feel surprised, because we’ve got pretty good talent here,” Hernandez said after his team moved within another defeat of matching the franchise mark set in 1992. “We’ve got good pitching. We’ve got a pretty good staff. The offense is pretty good, too. It happens. It’s one of those times in a season when it happens. We’ve got to keep fighting. We’ve got to try to win games. We cannot do anything else.”
Hernandez, who took his first loss in six starts here, looked hopelessly over his shoulder in the seventh inning as a grounder by Adrian Gonzalez hopped up the middle. On four other occasions, Hernandez had watched his infielders turn double plays to help end Boston rallies and keep Seattle within a run in a 2-1 game.
A similarly placed ground ball that was hit much harder had been snared in the third inning by shortstop Brendan Ryan to begin a brilliant-looking 6-3 double play. But not this time, not this night.
Ryan watched hopelessly as the ball bounced beyond his reach, bringing home two runs in what became a five-run seventh for the Red Sox. Kevin Youkilis doubled on Hernandez’s 117th and final pitch to score another run, and an additional marker scored when left fielder Mike Carp’s throw hit the lead runner sliding into third.
David Ortiz then singled off reliever Jeff Gray to make it 7-1 and signal to the 38,048 fans at Fenway Park that this one was done. Carp hit a three-run homer off lefty reliever Franklin Morales in the eighth to make the final score more respectable, but it was the one-run ball pitched over seven innings by Red Sox starter John Lackey that really did in the visitors.
Lackey has been inconsistent all year and entered with a 6.70 earned-run average. But after Ichiro Suzuki singled to open the game, stole two bases, then scored on a Dustin Ackley single, the Mariners were done scoring until Carp’s blast.
Boston tied it in the bottom of the first, took the lead on a Jacoby Ellsbury home run in the third and never looked back.
“We continue to swing the bat better, but we didn’t do a good job on two-out RBI situations,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “We had multiple opportunities throughout the course of the game, which in its own right is a good thing because we’re creating opportunities, but you’ve got to finish those innings off.”
Ryan helped keep the Mariners in the game with his glove work, partaking in all four double plays including the gem in the third. On the Gonzalez grounder, he simply couldn’t get close enough despite cheating over toward the middle to start the play off.
But Ryan also grounded out to end the seventh inning after an Ichiro double with two out in a 2-1 game.
“From my perspective, I’m thinking about failing four times at the plate,” said Ryan, who went 1 for 5. “I’m thinking about what I wasn’t able to put in the piggy bank. You look at their at-bats and what they did with guys in scoring position. Working counts, getting counts in their favor. Double plays aside, they still did things when they had to.”
E—Carp (1). LOB—Seattle 8, Boston 6. 2B—I.Suzuki (14), Olivo (10), Cust (14), Youkilis (28). HR—Carp (1), Ellsbury (16). RBIs—Ackley (14), Carp 3 (3), Ellsbury (55), Ad.Gonzalez 2 (80), Youkilis 2 (70), D.Ortiz (59). SB—I.Suzuki 2 (26), Olivo (3), Pedroia (19). RLSP—Seattle 6, Boston 4. RMU—Ad.Gonzalez. GIDP—Youkilis, D.Ortiz, C.Crawford, Scutaro. DP—Seattle 4.
IR-S—Gray 2-2, D.Bard 1-0. WP—Lackey. PB—Olivo. T—2:53. A—38,048 (37,493).