Nobody at Safeco Field Friday night thought the Boston Red Sox were going to pitch to Nelson Cruz with two outs in the ninth inning, but that’s exactly what manager John Farrell opted to do (box score). Cruz’s two-out single into the gap scored Brad Miller easily from second base for a 2-1 Mariners victory.
Seeing the Red Sox bring in a right-handed reliever with first base open and two outs in the ninth inning seemed like a curious decision. When Junichi Tazawa actually pitched to Cruz, it got really strange. The American League’s top hitter made Tazawa pay, hitting a 3-2 pitch into left centerfield for a walk-off triumph.
J.A. Happ matched Boston’s Clay Buchholz for seven innings. Pretty impressive on a night when the Red Sox starter was at the top of his game. Happ allowed just one earned run on five hits over seven innings, marking the sixth time in seven starts this season that he has held an opponent to two runs or fewer. He didn’t factor into the decision, as reliever Tom Wilhelmsen got the win after two scoreless innings.
Cruz and Seth Smith provided the highlights on a night when Seattle managed five hits and never really got a read on Buchholz. The good news was that Seattle left only three runners on base and went 1 for 2 with runners in scoring position. The bad news was that Seattle didn’t have many opportunities to drive in runs. At one point, Buchholz retired 15 batters in a row before Smith in the sixth got hold of one for a 419-foot, two-out homer to center in the sixth. But, thanks to Cruz’s heroics at the end mattered less.
Boston manager John Farrell: “That’s a terrible decision on my part. We had first base open, we saw Cruz’s first three at-bats — he was chasing some off-speed stuff and he was 1-8 against Tazawa previously. It didn’t work out. That’s a horrible decision on my part.”
The Mariners’ starting pitchers for the final three games of the Boston series – Happ, Felix Hernandez (Saturday) and James Paxton (Sunday) – were a combined 3-0 while allowing three earned runs over 18 innings of their most recent starts heading into the series . . . Since the Mariners called up Chris Taylor from Triple-A to take over as the starting shortstop, Brad Miller hasn’t spent much time on the bench. Miller sat for two games but has since played in eight in a row — serving as designated hitter, leftfielder and shortstop.
The King’s Court will be back in yellow at 6:10 p.m. Saturday night, when RHP Felix Hernandez (6-0, 1.85 ERA) makes his first start since mowing down the A’s on Mother’s Day. Off to the best start of his career, Hernandez seeks to be the first Mariners pitcher to start a season 7-0 since Aaron Sele opened the historic 2001 season with an 8-0 mark. RHP Rick Porcello (3-2, 4.50 ERA) is scheduled for Boston.