By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
SEATTLE It wasnt quite the pitchers dream match-up that some predicted at Safeco Field, and Josh Beckett almost didnt make it out of the first inning.
Despite the first frame breakdown, the Sox very nearly came back against the hapless Mariners before falling by a 5-4 score at Safeco Field in a fitting debut to the Wily Mo Pena Era in Seattle.
Ichiro Suzuki made a resounding opening statement by hammering the first Beckett offering of the evening and launching it into the right field seats for a quick 1-0 lead for the Mariners. The first onslaught didnt end until five runs had crossed the plate and Seattle rookie outfielder Casper Wells had also launched his own two-run homer off the Sox ace.
After the first inning stumble, Beckett managed to get through four more innings without allowing another run, fanning six Seattle batters along the way.
But the challenge had been set with Sox facing a steep uphill climb.
It looked like the Sox were going to go out with little more than a whimper as Hernandez was dealing through the first five innings, and Bostons only rally was snuffed out when Jacoby Ellsbury was called out in a hellacious home plate collision with Josh Bard. Ellsbury was off and running on a Dustin Pedroia fly ball to right field, but Ichiro threw a one-hop bullet to home plate that beat the Sox centerfielder. Ellsburys knee caught Bard in the face and it looked like the Ms catcher bobbled the ball from glove to his throwing hand and home plate ump Mark Ripperger originally called him out.
But the umps pulled together for a conference and called Ellsbury out on a play that ended the ending. The Sox finally did catch fire in the top of the sixth as two-run homers from Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia wobbled King Felix and pulled Boston within a single run. Hernandez managed to give the Ms seven innings, but surrendered an uncharacteristic nine hits and four runs to a Sox offense that continues to impress.
The Seattle bullpen managed to navigate through the final innings, and Brandon League wrapped up his 28th save of the season in the Ms win in the middle game of their three-game series.
Player of the Game: Ichiro Suzuki. Its been an uncharacteristically down year for the Seattle right fielder used to living well above the .300 batting average mark. On Saturday the Japanese import showed why hes still got it. Ichiro slammed Josh Becketts first pitch into the right field stands for a solo home run that sparked a five-run uprising against Beckett, and once again he was the sparkplug for the Ms offense. He also showed off his defensive prowess in the fourth inning when he nailed one of the speediest base runners in the Majors, Jacoby Ellsbury, attempting to score from third base on a sacrifice fly. Ichiros one hop toss from medium right field beat Ellsbury to the plate and saved a run that proved crucial in Bostons loss.
Honorable Mention: Jacoby Ellsbury appeared to jar the ball loose in the fourth inning in a mad collision with Josh Bard at home plate, and ignited the Boston offense with a two-run bomb in the bottom of the sixth inning. The shot was 10 rows deep in the right field bleachers as Ichiro attempted his Spiderman act climbing up the wall to potentially make a play on the scalded ball. With the home run, Ellsbury became the first 2020 player for the Red Sox since Nomar Garciaparra back during the 1997 baseball season.
The Goat: Josh Beckett managed to quiet things down after nailing the pooch in the first inning, but he needed to be better from the start against Felix Hernandez. Theres no excuse for one of baseballs best pitchers to very nearly get bounced from the first inning by the worst offensive team in baseball. It appears that both John Lackey and Beckett struggled without a book against the young Seattle hitters, but eight hits, five runs and only 99 pitches in five innings isnt good enough.
Turning Point: The Red Sox could have started their comeback rally early enough if things had broken correctly, but a perfect throw from Ichiro cut down Jacoby Ellsbury at the plate during the fourth inning rally. The home plate ump appeared confused and actually called Ellsbury safe immediately after the play, but was overruled after a conference between umpires. That drew the ire of Terry Francona as he was ejected from the game, and the run proved to be key in a one-run ballgame that ended in favor of Seattle. It took a perfect throw from Ichiro and a perfect hold from Josh Bard to cut Ellsbury down at the plate, and both players executed beautifully.
By the Numbers: 6 the number of Red Sox players in the 2020 club in franchise history among a group that includes Ellis Burks, Nomar Garciaparra and John Valentin. Jacoby Ellsbury joined them with a two-run bomb on Saturday night that marked his 20th home run this year. Ellsbury is still attempting to become the first Sox player with 25 homers and 25 stolen bases in a single season.
Quote of Note: I knew the throw had to be on the money for him to get me. When it was in the air I knew it was going to be close, and unfortunately that would have been the tying run looking at it now. Great play by Ichiro and a great play by Bard to hold onto it. Jacoby Ellsbury talking about the fourth inning play that saw him get cut down at the plate in a train-wreck collision with Josh Bard that proved to be the difference in the game.