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Red Sox 6, Mariners 7: Late-game woes blow the game

Both the bullpen and the lineup can be blamed for this one

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

This was a tough loss and a pretty wild game overall. Early on it seemed as if it would be all Seattle, then the Red Sox had a huge third inning that put all of the momentum on their side. Unfortunately, that was the only inning in which they’d be able to do damage. The lineup had some chances to score late in the game but squandered the opportunities. That would come back to bite them as the bullpen had some rare struggles with Heath Hembree and Matt Barnes each allowing a run to give Seattle the win. We knew they weren’t going to get the sweep in this series, but that was a tough loss to swallow between the bullpen blowing it and the offense leaving those late runs on the board.

This was a wild game, particularly early on, and the turn taken in the third inning was one of the more unexpected and jarring I can remember in a regular season game. I’m just going to get right into what happened at Safeco on Saturday, because there’s really no amount of buildup that will do the game action credit.

Very early on, it looked like it was going to be a long night — or, perhaps more accurately, a short night — for the Red Sox starter. Rick Porcello struggled some in the first, and gave up a big hit just two batters into the game. After a quick first out in the bottom of the first, Jean Segura came up and got a two-seam fastball that broke right into the batter’s wheelhouse. He did not miss it, sending it way out to left field for a solo shot to put Seattle up 1-0.

Porcello would get a couple of strikeouts to end that inning, but the second proved to be even worse and included plenty of hard contact. There, he allowed a leadoff double to Kyle Seager that was immediately followed by a line drive single from Ryon Healy. Just like that, the Mariners had runners on the corners and nobody out. Ben Gamel followed it up with a grounder to the mound, and after Porcello looked back the runner at third he turned to second for the forceout there. However, Seager broke for the plate as soon as Porcello went to second and the throw to get him there was not in time. It was very smart baserunning, but also bad defense. Xander Bogaerts has to go for the double play when he gets the ball at second, and Porcello probably should have just taken the out at first, which would have prevented the run from scoring.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Anyway, the inning only continued from there and after getting a strikeout for the first out, Porcello gave up more hard contact. This time, Mike Zunino smashed one down the third base line that kicked up off the bag into left field. It allowed one more run to score, and Seattle had a 3-0 lead heading into the third inning.

Up to that point, the Red Sox offense hadn’t gotten anything going against Mariners starter James Paxton. It wasn’t surprising given that he’s talented and left-handed, but it was frustrating all the same. That was about to change in a big way in the third, though the defense for Seattle had a lot to do with it. That inning started with a Jackie Bradley Jr. single — Boston’s first hit of the night — and after a strikeout Mookie Betts reached on an infield single. This was the first bad defensive play of the inning as Segura could have easily gotten Bradley at second base but somehow overlooked that. Instead, he tried to make a tough throw to first and it got by Healy, allowing Bradley to third base.

With runners on the corners, Brock Holt came through with a base hit, cutting the Mariners lead to two. That brought J.D. Martinez to the plate. The slugger hit a fly ball to deep right field, and it looked like Mitch Haniger got a bat read off the bat. He went after it relatively slowly, and the ball ultimately bounced off his glove. Betts had to hang at second to tag in case it was caught so didn’t score, but the Red Sox had the bases loaded. The defensive clinic only continued from there when Mitch Moreland hit a weak, broken-bat grounder to the left side that inexplicably got under Seager’s glove at third base, allowing two more runs to score and tying the game at three.

So, Paxton wasn’t even pitching too poorly but the Red Sox were rolling through the inning with three runs scored already and two on and nobody out. That brought Bogaerts up, and this time the defense had nothing to do with it. Boston’s shortstop got a fastball down in the zone and he took it the other way for a three-run shot to right-center field. Just like that, the Red Sox somehow had a 6-3 lead. Boston would get a couple more runners and run Paxton out of the game that inning but the score remained the same.

From there, things quieted down a bit. Porcello settled into a groove and set the side down in order in each of the next two innings, providing those big shutdown innings that were needed in this game. Unfortunately, the Red Sox weren’t getting much going against the Mariners bullpen either, so the 6-3 score held into the bottom of the fifth.

There, Porcello got into some more trouble, though it wasn’t as concerning as the beginning of this game. After getting a couple of quick outs, the Red Sox righty allowed three consecutive ground ball singles. That put another run on the board for Seattle, and the bases would load up after a two-out walk to Nelson Cruz. Porcello got a big ground ball against Seager to strand them, though, and Boston had a two-run lead after five.

The Red Sox starter would get through a clean sixth to end his night, and the Red Sox offense would get a couple runners on in the seventh before stranding them there. Bucking the trend of this game, Seattle got some great defense in that inning to prevent more runs from being scored.

So, with the 6-4 lead Heath Hembree came on for the bottom of the seventh. That inning did not get off to a good start with Zunino leading off the frame by talking a slider on the outer half and pushing it out over the right field wall to cut the lead to one. After a couple of outs, Hembree would allow a walk to bring Nelson Cruz to the plate. Fortunately, he induced a pop up to end the inning with the one-run lead in hand.

After the Red Sox stranded the bases loaded in the eighth — an inning plagued by untimely outs and poor sequencing — Matt Barnes came on for the bottom half to protect the 6-5 lead. He was not able to succeed in that goal. Barnes did get a strikeout to lead off the inning, but things went downhill from there. He followed that up with a four-pitch walk followed by a single that found a hole through the left side. With two on and one out, Denard Span came up to pinch hit. If you’ll recall, Span was with the Rays earlier this year and has killed Boston whenever he got the chance. That continued in this one, as he smoked a double into the right field corner to score two and give Seattle the one-run lead. He’s get out of the inning after that, but the damage was done.

So, the Red Sox were going up against one of the best closers in the game trying to at least push this one into the bottom of the ninth. Things got off to a promising start when Martinez led off with a single, and after a Moreland strikeout the runner moved over to second on a wild pitch. Bogaerts followed that up with a walk, putting two on with one out for Rafael Devers. He’d pop out on the first pitch, leaving it all up to Eduardo Núñez. He could not come through, grounding out to end the game with a couple on base.

The Red Sox will look to get back on track in game three of this series on Saturday. They’ll be sending Steven Wright to the mound with Wade LeBlanc throwing for Seattle. First pitch is at 8:15 PM ET.


Courtesy of Fangraphs