Lester flirts with perfection, Sox lose
The zero that remained on the scoreboard as Boston’s Jon Lester kept rolling through Seattle’s offense was certainly being noticed in the Mariners dugout.
“We were all talking about it trying to jinx it,” Seattle left fielder Michael Saunders said.
Saunders’ bat became the answer to Lester’s no-hit bid.
Hitless for 5 1-3 innings, Saunders came up with Seattle’s first, a two-run homer in the sixth inning, and the Mariners added three more late runs off Lester in their 5-1 win over the Red Sox on Saturday night.
Trailing 1-0 and showing little sign of solving Boston’s lefty ace, the Mariners got a bit of luck and one sweet swing from their young left-fielder to turn what appeared to be a potential night of perfection by Lester into his second straight loss.
“I felt like I had good stuff but you can never predict that stuff,” Lester said. “I hung a curve ball to a guy that I shouldn’t have. He made a good swing at it (and) hit it out.”
Lester was dominant for the first 16 batters he faced. Ten were retired on strikeouts, the other six on infield putouts.
Batter No. 17 is where it started to unravel for Lester.
Jack Wilson got a 1-2 fastball that Lester left over the plate and lined it into left-center field. Center fielder Eric Patterson quickly raced over and was in position in time, but appeared to close his glove a moment too soon and the liner glanced off the top of his glove and fell to the turf. Wilson hustled into second on the error.
Perfect game, gone.
Finally with a runner on base, Lester fell behind 2-1 before a cut fastball for a called strike that evened the count against Saunders at 2-2. Then came a curve ball that Saunders hit 368-feet into the right field seats. Seattle’s first hit gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead.
It was the same pitch Saunders struck out swinging on in the third inning – the one in the sixth just not having the same bite.
“To be able to do that against a guy like Lester, that’s a feather in his cap,” Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu said.
Seattle then added some insurance runs in the eighth. Milton Bradley tripled for only Seattle’s second hit off Lester leading off the inning, nearly stumbling and falling rounding second. Bradley scored on Jack Wilson’s squeeze bunt for a two-run lead. Saunders added another hit later in the inning with a comebacker off Lester’s spikes and scored on Chone Figgins’ double. Ichiro Suzuki also scored when Jose Lopez was hit by reliever Manny Delcarmen’s pitch with the bases loaded.
The win ended a trying 24 hours for the Mariners, who were more interested in fighting each other a night earlier when Figgins was pulled leading to a dugout scuffle involving Wakamatsu and a number of players.
Figgins, who did not talk about what happened before Saturday’s game, indicated afterward the situation from Friday wasn’t completely settled.
“Not necessarily. When I get my thoughts together and if I decide to talk about it I’m going to talk about it. Right now, I’m just enjoying tonight,” said Figgins, who heard some boos when he was introduced for his first at-bat.
Saunders’ homer was just the second by a lefty this season off Lester, who for the first five innings was untouchable.
Instead his one mistake, and Boston’s inability to mount any offense against Seattle’s pitching, sent Lester (11-5) to his second straight defeat.
It seemed unlikely with how Lester was rolling early. He struck out Suzkui to start the bottom of the first, just the start of five dominating innings against Seattle.
He added two more strike outs in the second, two more in the third, then set down Suzuki (looking), Figgins (looking) and Franklin Gutierrez (swinging) in the fourth. Lester finished with a career-high 13 strikeouts and one walk. He gave up four hits and threw 124 pitches.
“I was able to locate both sides of the plate, make some off-speed pitches, so I was able to get in a rhythm early on,” Lester said.
Lost in Lester’s effort was an impressive performance by Seattle’s bullpen. Starter David Pauley pitched admirably, going 5 2-3 innings, allowing just David Ortiz’s 19th homer of the season on the first pitch of the fourth. But a high pitch count forced Seattle to turn to its pen.
Chris Seddon, Jamie Wright and Garrett Olson then combined for 3 1-3 hitless innings of relief with Seddon (1-0) getting his first major league win and Olson his first major league save.
Notes: Red Sox manager Terry Francona said injured C Victor Martinez will catch in the bullpen during Sunday’s game. Francona said it’s the next step in getting Martinez back from his fractured left thumb. … Lester’s previous career-high for strikeouts was 12 last year against Toronto. … Seattle is now one victory shy of 2,500 in franchise history.