The Mariners swept aside the Red Sox at Fenway Park for the first time in club history over the weekend. It was their 63rd crack at the Sox and they finally broke through thanks to an epic comeback on Friday night and a bare-knuckle slugfest on Sunday.
It was not a promising start to the series. Joe Kelly and a handful of Red Sox relievers handcuffed the surging Mariners offense and kept Seattle off the board for 8 2/3 innings Friday night. Logan Morrison stood lonely at second base in the ninth inning with two down as the Mariners were forced to stare down the barrels of one of the best closers in baseball.
Koji Uehara entered the game with a sparkling 1.53 ERA. He had only yielded 10 earned runs this season. Last year he only allowed nine earned runs and just seven the year before. Uehara had only allowed more than two hits in an outing once in 58 appearances this season. He has only yielded two runs in an outing 11 times in 276 career appearances, and opponents had touched him for three runs only once. He had allowed three hits in an outing five times and only once had he allowed four hits.
According to BaseballReference.com’s win-probability chart, the Mariners had a 1 percent chance to win the game as Endy Chavez strolled to the plate with two outs. Speaking of beating the odds, Chavez battled Uehara for 10 pitches before earning his third walk of the night. It marked the first time in his 13-year career that he walked three times in a game. The table was set for the Mariners’ hit parade as Chris Denorfia, Austin Jackson, Dustin Ackley and Robinson Cano punched the baseball all over Fenway Park.
When the dust settled, the Mariners had captured a 5-3 lead. They handed Uehara the worst outing in his MLB career, and he was pulled from a game for the first time this season. The man who had only allowed five earned runs the last two seasons combined had coughed up five in the blink of an eye to the Mariners. Fernando Rodney punctuated one of the greatest comebacks in franchise history by shooting an arrow through Boston’s hopes in the bottom of the ninth.
Saturday’s featured an eruption that Mount St. Helens would be proud of. Seattle’s offense lay dormant for the first three innings before sending 10 men to the plate and hanging a crooked seven runs on the board in the fourth, capping it off with a three-run home run from Ackley. He hit .385 (5 for 13) with a homer, six RBIs and five runs scored during the three-game series. Through the first two games of the series, the Mariners had only scored in two innings, but it was enough to secure two victories.
The final game of the series quickly veered off course for the Mariners. Seattle scored three runs in the first, but the Red Sox had the answer. Hisashi Iwakuma threw a career-high 39 pitches in a three-run first innings. It was only the second time in his career he chucked more than 30 pitches in a frame. He only lasted 2 1/3 innings, which is a career low. Problems were compounded when Cano left the game early with dizziness. The Mariners fought back from a deficit once again fueled by clutch hits from Jackson, Ackley, Brad Miller, Kyle Seager, Kendrys Morales and Morrison. The Mariners held on for a high-wire, nail-biting 8-6 win.
The offense sizzled in Boston once again. The Mariners are cranking out five runs a game since the trade deadline, which is second most in the majors.
But as good as the offense was in the Boston, the bullpen was the backbone to Seattle’s success. Felix Hernandez, Iwakuma and Chris Young combined to allow 11 earned runs in just over 11 innings during the series. Meanwhile, the bullpen was simply superb. Seattle’s relievers only gave up one earned run in 15 1/3 innings while fanning 22 hitters. The effort on Sunday was especially Herculean. The bullpen tossed 6 2/3 high-pressure innings and only allowed one run. The bullpen stranded runners at third base in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings.
The Mariners have the best bullpen ERA in baseball at 2.38. Their relievers have struck out 387 hitters in 382 2/3 innings while only allowing a .215 average against. Their 2.38 ERA would shatter the franchise record of 3.04, which was set in 2001. It’s amazing to consider that their 4.58 mark last year is 34th worst in team history.
Seattle’s bullpen ERA is fifth best since 1970.
1. Pirates, 1972: 2.25
2. Yankees, 1981: 2.26
3. Dodgers, 1988: 2.35
4. Athletics, 1990: 2.35
5. Mariners, 2014: 2.38
The victory on Sunday pushed the Mariners’ win total to 71, which is how many games Seattle won last season. It also pulled the Mariners to within five games of the once-untouchable A’s and six games off the lead in the American League West.