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Slumping Mariners turn to Marco Gonzales while Red Sox aim for sweep

The Mariners hope Marco Gonzales will play the role of stopper Sunday in Boston. (AP)

The Boston Red Sox offense is alive and well as the club seeks to finish a three-game sweep of the visiting Seattle Mariners on Sunday.

Saturday: Free-falling M’s give up 8 runs in 3rd inning, lose 9-5 to Red Sox

Boston has outscored Seattle 23-6 in winning the first two games of the series and improving its record above .500 for the first time this season. The Red Sox will send right-hander Hector Velazquez (0-2, 4.03 ERA) to the mound in the finale opposite Mariners lefty Marco Gonzales (5-1, 3.08).

After Friday’s 14-1 rout was all Red Sox from the start, the Mariners jumped to a 4-0 lead in the first inning of Saturday’s matinee. Boston would score the next nine runs – eight in the third inning – in winning its season-high fourth straight game and winning its 10th in the last 12.

“Not the way we drew it up, pitching-wise,” Mariners acting manager Manny Acta said of Boston’s outburst. “We gave Félix (Hernández) a little bit of cushion, and we felt like it would buy us some time. Unfortunately, he couldn’t stop them.”

Having entered May in the bottom-third of scoring throughout the majors, the Red Sox lead the American League with 75 runs scored through their first 10 games this month. On the other end, their pitching has allowed just 30 runs in that time.

Leading the offensive turnaround has been 22-year-old third baseman Rafael Devers, who has six hits and six RBIs through the first two games of the series. Over his last 24 games, Devers is hitting .379, and he has 17 RBIs in his last 16 contests.

Mitch Moreland has also been a driving force, having homered in two straight and driven in 15 runs in his past 10 games.

“I knew we were going to get better, it was just a matter of staying patient, being disciplined, keep preaching the same principles as last year,” said Red Sox skipper Alex Cora. “We have a plan in place and we believe in it and we’re going to stick to it.”

For the Mariners, who fell below .500 for the first time this season with Friday’s series-opening loss, little is going right. The team has dropped 11 of its last 13 games and four straight series.

After its four-run first inning Saturday, Seattle’s bats were held hitless until Omar Narváez hit a one-out solo home run in the top of the ninth.

While Hernández got shelled for seven runs Saturday, the Mariners’ new No. 1, Gonzales, will look to get back on track as the team’s stopper. Seattle won six of his first seven starts before dropping the last two.

Last time out, Gonzales held the New York Yankees to one run in six innings and was in line for the win before his bullpen faltered behind him. He beat the Red Sox in the Mariners’ home opener, allowing four runs (three earned) in 5 1/3 innings.

Velazquez was tabbed to start Sunday by Cora after Saturday’s win. The righty has been used as a spot starter frequently this season, never going more than 3 1/3 innings. He pitched three against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday, giving up two runs. He will make his first start against Seattle.

Mariners manager Scott Servais will return for the series finale after missing the first two games to attend his daughter’s graduation.

– Field Level Media

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