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Red Sox 4, Mariners 2: Swihart Catches a Break

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The young rookie gets the go-ahead run in yet another taut game at Safeco Field.

Jennifer Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Right now, I suspect Red Sox fans might be forgiven for thinking that the streets are paved with gold as in El Dorado, that the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny are real, or even that Madonna can act. Because what we saw last night seems similarly as implausible:

After going just 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position, while facing Felix Hernandez, the Red Sox beat the Seattle Mariners last night 4-2 with the go-ahead run coming courtesy of Blake Swihart.

Written like that, it seems just absolutely horribly unlikely, doesn't it? But yet this is the brave new world in which we find ourselves.

Perhaps in partial repayment for the epic cruelty of Friday's game, in which Buchholz's brilliance was rewarded with a no-decision, fate was somewhat kinder to Rick Porcello Saturday night. While he was not as sharp as Buchholz—but then, it would be churlish to expect that kind of game every night, or even on back-to-back nights—he was good enough to get the job done. Porcello held the Mariners to just five hits over 6.2 innings, with the only blemishes on his night being a brace of homers to Brad Miller, the first in the opening frame and the second in the fifth inning, both times with the ball leaving the park to right(ish).

Tonight, though, the real story was the offense against Hernandez. Given their struggles of late, it would not have been outside the realm of possibilities to imagine a bloodbath in which Hernandez racked up 20 K's against a hapless and helpless Sox lineup. Instead, however, Hernandez was a bit shakier than he normally is—at least for one crucial inning.

The Sox did not manage much against King Felix through the first few innings, aside from a pair of longballs from the wily old veterans Pablo Sandoval and David Ortiz. Sandoval's shot took the first pitch of the second inning to deep, deep left and knotted the score at a run apiece. The Sox took the lead an inning later when Ortiz left a hanging mistake by Felix just over the yellow line in center right field. The ball bounced back onto the field, but no matter—the run still scored.

It was the sixth inning, though, that proved Hernandez's undoing, and it was in pretty much the most un-Hernandez-like way you could possibly imagine. Although he managed to get Sandoval out to start the inning, he then proceeded to walk Xander Bogaerts (no, that's not a typo), and then issued another free pass to Daniel Nava on just five pitches. However, with Swihart the next batter up, I wouldn't blame you if you secretly just wished that he wouldn't hit into a double play so that the inning could go on a bit longer. And while Swihart has managed to put together some excellent at-bats that led to zero productivity, in this at-bat, he struck quickly (as opposed to striking out slowly). He took the first pitch he saw from Hernandez, a 92 MPH sinker, and put it into the no-man's land between the left and center fielders that he took for a double, plating Bogaerts and giving the Sox the go-ahead run. A third walk in the frame, this time to Jackie Bradley, Jr., brought Brock Holt to the plate. While Logan Morrison made an excellent diving grab to rob Holt of both a hit and an extra run scored, his groundout was enough to bring Nava home and provide a crucial second insurance run.

With that extra cushion, Saturday's relievers—who looked a lot like Friday night's crew—managed to hold on. Whereas in the previous game they were ineffective in keeping the Mariners from scoring in the ninth, on Saturday Tommy Layne and Junichi Tazawa held things down for the Sox at the end of the seventh and into the eighth, before passing the baton onto Koji Uehara, who performed his usual magic and preserved the win for the Sox.

So, the Sox now find themselves with the chance to win another series on the road and finally claw their way back up to .500 if they can win Sunday's rubber match. (Oh, and they picked up a game in the standings against the Rays, and what's not to like about that?)

Sunday's game will start at 4:10 ET, and end far too late for us folks in Europe, dangit. GO SOX.