Mariners knuckle under in extras to Red Sox
Ramirez roughed up in debut while Wilhelmsen gives up winning run
SEATTLE -- A Red Sox team that had been smashing the ball around Safeco Field for several days wound up needing only a seeing-eye single by Daniel Nava in the 10th inning Thursday to pull out an 8-7 victory over the Mariners.
Nava drove a two-out hopper up the middle that closer Tom Wilhelmsen thought was in his grasp, but the ball somehow eluded his glove as well as a diving second baseman Brad Miller as pinch-runner Jackie Bradley Jr. sprinted home with the go-ahead run.
"It came back and I thought I had it, but it kind of picked up speed like it hit a hard spot," Wilhelmsen said. "It kicked up. I think I've got it, but it's by me. And oh [shoot]. Not close enough, unfortunately. … My arm wasn't like Go Go Gadget enough to get out there."
Nava saw three curveballs in his four-pitch at-bat, finally driving the last one up the middle. He wasn't surprised the hard-throwing Wilhelmsen came at him with offspeed pitches, given the difficulty of dealing with the curve while also sitting on an upper-90s fastball.
"Is he second-guessing himself?" Nava said. "I don't know, but a guy throws 99 and has a 75-mph curveball, you can't really go wrong whichever way you go. I'm just fortunate it found a hole. I was just trying to go up the middle, because he's got such a big gap in velocity that if you cheat on one, you're not going to touch the other."
Wilhelmsen regained his closer's role recently and looked nasty when he came in to strike out pinch-hitter Shane Victorino for the final out in the top of the ninth. However, in the 10th, the righty walked leadoff batter Ryan Lavarnway in a 10-pitch at-bat, and that wound up being the deciding run with Bradley as the pinch-runner.
"There were some good pitches and he battled and battled and wound up earning the winning run," said Wilhelmsen. "That's what happens. I think it's like a baseball God's rule: If you walk the leadoff batter, they're scoring."
The Red Sox won the final three games in the four-game series to improve their Major League-best record to 57-37. The Mariners are 40-52 heading into a weekend set with the Angels before the All-Star break.
Young right-hander Erasmo Ramirez got the callup from Triple-A Tacoma in time to start the game, but he couldn't slow a Red Sox offense that leads the Majors in scoring and finished with a no-decision.
Ramirez surrendered a career-high seven runs on six hits, four walks and a hit batter in 4 2/3 innings before giving way to Charlie Furbush, who allowed two inherited runners to score to tie the game at 7.
"He just didn't have the command he needed to have," said manager Eric Wedge. "That's a big part of his game. When you walk four guys and hit a guy in less than five innings, you can't do that against any team, much less a real good-hitting team like the Red Sox. He just made it a lot more difficult for himself and for us."
Just like Hisashi Iwakuma on Tuesday, Ramirez was given an early 5-1 lead that he couldn't protect against Boston's bats as the Red Sox scored three times in both the fourth and fifth frames.
"It was just a little bit different, the first time," said Ramirez, who missed the first two months of the season with an elbow injury and was recalled after seven Minor League starts. "You're never sure what you're going to do the first time, but this time, the luck wasn't on my side. Every ground ball went to the right spots. The hitters got lucky today. I just need to continue trying to make quality pitches, but I didn't and they made me pay for that."
The Mariners had a 7-4 lead when rookie knuckleballer Steven Wright replaced starter Ryan Dempster with one out in the third, and Wright wound up throwing 5 2/3 scoreless innings with just three hits while allowing Boston to fight its way back.
"A knuckleballer isn't something you see every day," said third baseman Kyle Seager. "He was real effective and throwing it for strikes. It's a pretty unpredictable pitch and hard to time up. He definitely throws it harder than some guys I'd faced in the past. Particularly out of the stretch, he's pretty quick to the plate. It just adds another little bit to what's already deceptive."
Seager went deep in the second inning off Dempster as the Mariners have now homered in 19 straight games, the longest streak in the Majors this year and tied for the longest such run in franchise history (Sept. 7-27, 2009). The MLB record is 27 games by the Rangers in '02.
Seager extended his hitting streak to 11 games with his 14th home run of the year and finished the game 2-for-5 with two RBIs, including a run-scoring base hit in the fourth that had Seattle up 7-4 at that point.
Right fielder Endy Chavez had a two-run single in the second and also reached on a bunt single in the fourth, but he then was replaced by Dustin Ackley after feeling some tightness in his groin muscle. Wedge said he doesn't think the injury is a major issue, but Chavez wasn't able to run well enough to stay in the game.
Catcher Mike Zunino also went down hard in the final inning after taking a foul ball just inside his shin guard, but he stayed in the game and said he was fine after icing it down.