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There were harder hit balls on the night that led to more runs – specifically a pair of home runs from Logan Morrison, who went 4-for-4 with four RBI in his best game as a Mariner.
Yet it was his Dustin Ackley’s tenacious at-bat against Red Sox starter John Lackey that propelled the Mariners to a lead that continued to swell into an eventual 12-3 win over the Boston Red Sox, Monday night at Safeco Field.
The Mariners have won four straight. At 41-36, they are now five games over .500 for just the second time this season.
It all started in the fourth inning.
The Mariners had just tied the game at 2-2 on Kyle Seager’s RBI single to right that scored Robinson Cano.
An irritated Lackey began a slow implosion that would end his start. He gave up a groundball single to Logan Morrison that he seemed to feel should have been caught by his shifted defense, angrily yelling in the direction of second baseman Dustin Pedroia and Stephen Drew when they failed to come up with it. Lackey then walked Mike Zunino to load the bases, bringing Ackley to the plate.
Lackey got up 1-2 after Ackley fouled off back-to-back pitches. From there Lackey tried to put Ackley away with strike three.
But it never happened. Ackley wouldn’t allow it.
He refused to chase the ensuing pitch in the dirt, fouled five pitches off in a row, ignored another curveball out of the zone and then fouled off two more pitches.
“I had a great view of it from second base,” Morrison said. “He was just fouling off everything.”
On the 13th pitch of the marathon at-bat, Ackley hit a hard ground ball to first base that was gloved by Napoli and fired to second for an out. It might have been a double play. But for some reason, Lackey didn’t cover first base. Ackley sprinted across the first base bag and the go-ahead run scored.
“It was a battle the whole time,” Ackley said. “I just wanted to put one in play there to score a run. I think there were one or two pitches I could’ve handled that I fouled off. The rest were cutters down and in, curveballs down and in. I was just trying to put the bat on it the best I could.”
Had Lackey covered first base, the inning might have been over. The play would have been close.
“Off the bat, I could tell Lackey wasn’t getting over (to first),” Ackley said. “I knew there wasn’t going to be a double play.”
It only got worse for Lackey. He walked Brad Miller and gave up a single to Willie Bloomquist to load the bases again. The ageless Endy Chavez unloaded them with one swing. Lackey hung a curveball and Chavez hammered it over the head of right-fielder Brock Holt, who froze for a second, and then tried to make a retreating, leaping grab to no avail. It ended Lackey’s night. He gave up seven runs on seven with two walks, three strikeouts and a wild pitch in 3 2/3 innings of work.
The six-run fourth inning put the Mariners up 7-2. From there, they turned the game into a rout against the Boston bullpen, scoring a plethora of runs for starting pitcher Felix Hernandez, perhaps an attempt to make up for the recent run of anemic offensive outings with their ace on the hill.
Hernandez was his typical self, pitching seven innings, giving up two runs on six hits with six strikeouts and no walks.
“I thought he was pretty good,” McClendon said.
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It was the eighth straight start that he pitched seven or more innings and allowed two or fewer runs. It broke the club record of seven he shared with Randy Johnson.
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