Brandon League struck out J.D. Drew who was pinch-hitting for Jason Varitek, not Mike Cameron, on a nasty fastball.
League worked a perfect ninth to finish off a string of 12 consecutive batters retired by Seattle pitching.
The Sox had a chance to begin the inning when Jed Lowrie tagged a ball. Unfortunately, though, he tagged it to the center-field triangle where Michael Saunders chased it down to make a nice running catch. It was a ball that is probably in the Red Sox bullpen in July or August. Unfortunately, it's still April.
Mid 9th, Mariners 5-4: Daniel Bard looked very good out of the Red Sox bullpen throwing a clean 1-2-3 inning in the top of the ninth.
The Red Sox head to the ninth, trailing by one. Jed Lowrie, Mike Cameron (likely J.D. Drew) and Jason Varitek are due in the bottom.
End 8th, Mariners 5-4: Impressive work from Jamey Wright out of the Mariners bullpen. He came in and promptly retired the heart of the Red Sox order. He got Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz in order to preserve what is a one-run lead.
Wright went right after all three of them and even got Youkilis looking on what looked to be a sharp curveball that just caught the inner edge of the plate.
Daniel Bard will likely pitch the ninth for Boston.
Mid 8th, Mariners 5-4: For a second there, it looked like Hideki Okajima and the Red Sox were in trouble. But after a couple of walks with a sacrifice bunt sandwiched in, Okajima got Chone Figgins to ground into a sharp, unassisted double play to Dustin Pedroia at second.
Jamey Wright comes on for the bottom half for the M's.
End 7th, Mariners 5-4: The Red Sox go very quietly in the bottom of the seventh, and Jason Vargas has all of a sudden gotten his team through seven innings. Would be a well-earned win if the M's hold on.
Hideki Okajima is on the way in for the Red Sox.
Mid 7th, Mariners 5-4: Ugly, ugly outing for Bobby Jenks, all centered around the inability to get a left-handed hitter out.
Ichiro singled to lead it off, that was followed by a double by Chone Figgins. Miguel Olivo drove in a run with a groundout before Jack Cust hit a wall-ball RBI double to left.
The struggles of Jenks in the seventh may signal a bit of a hole in the Red Sox bullpen. At this point, there's no lefty you feel real confident about, otherwise you probably go to him there. Left-handed Ichiro led off and singled. He was followed by Figgins who doubled. Figgins is a switch-hitter, but his lifetime average from the left side is 40 points higher than the left. And while Milton Bradley struck out, he's another switch-hitter who hits better from the left side. Then, of course, there was the Smoak double.
In short, it's a situation where you probably would have liked to have a lefty that you have confidence in to get left-handed hitters out.
Food for thought, as we hit the stretch with the Sox suddenly trailing again.
End 6th, Red Sox 4-3: Albers did an even better job than I first gave him credit for, considering I was an inning behind myself.
Looks like Bobby Jenks will pitch the seventh, which, given everything we've seen this year, makes much more sense.
Anyhoo, the Red Sox went quietly in the bottom of the sixth, as Jason Vargas finally got Mike Cameron to stop hitting lazy fly balls over the fence. So good for the lefty.
Mid 6th, Red Sox 4-3: Good work from Matt Albers, assuming his night is done after two innings of work. Hideki Okajima was loosening in the bullpen, and he'll likely work the seventh.
Albers played with fire there, walking Jack Cust to start the inning, but he settled down and did a good job of bridging the exit of Daisuke Matsuzaka to the back end of the bullpen.
End 5th, Red Sox 4-3: Some more bad luck for the Sox in the bottom of the frame, but nothing injury-related. This time, it's a sharply hit line drive that turns into two outs.
After a Kevin Youkilis walk (he's seeing the ball real well right now), David Ortiz hit a screamer, but he hit it right at Justin Smoak at first. Smoak snagged, it and stepped on the bag to double off Youkilis to end the inning.
If that ball got past Smoak, it may have scored even Youkilis from first. May have.
Mid 5th, Red Sox 4-3: Albers gave up a single to Chone Figgins and then committed an error on what would have been a double play.
It cost the Sox a run, but Albers was able to settle down nicely and get out of it.
This is obviously very, very early to be looking ahead, but it is worth noting that Alfredo Aceves started on Friday night in Pawtucket. So, with no off days in sight for the big club, if the Sox do have to skip Matsuzaka, Aceves could be an option, especially if Matsuzaka goes to the disabled list. If he has to just skip a start or two, there's always Tim Wakefield, as well.
Again, that's very, very premature speculation.
Credit to our astute readers for also catching the drop in Matsuzaka's velocity. He was living in the low 90s in the first few innings, but didn't throw a pitch faster than 88 to Ichiro, a five-pitch at-bat that was all fastballs. Have to think that's what caught Varitek's eye more than anything.
Top 5th, Red Sox 4-2: Real weird play here in the top of the fifth inning, and as a result, Daisuke Matsuzaka has left the game.
The play was only weird in the fact we assume Matsuzaka left with an injury, but replays were fairly inconclusive as to what happened to the righty.
Matt Albers came on to replace him.
End 4th, Red Sox 3-2: Mike Cameron went 54 at-bats without a home run before his second-inning home run that almost wasn't.
He didn't wait as long for the next round-tripper, as he just hit his second homer of the night, this one to left off of Jason Vargas.
Coincidentally, it looked like Cameron was fooled on both, and both times, it looked like it was the changeup. Like I mentioned earlier, Vargas is probably not enjoying his introduction to the Fens.
Cameron's no stranger to multi-home run games — he had a four-homer game with the Mariners in 2002 — but it's his first since Sept. 21, 2009.
A nifty double play by Brendan Ryan gets the M's out of it, though, as Dustin Pedroia continues to struggle at the plate.
Mid 4th, Red Sox 3-2: In the recent stretch of impressive pitching performances, the Red Sox obviously haven't had to lean on their bullpen. This one might be an exception.
Daisuke Matsuzaka was able to dance around a pair of walks in the fourth inning, but his pitch count is climbing. He's at 77 pitches through those four innings of work and he continues to work deep counts on practically every hitter.
It's been pretty tough to watch, but so far at least, you can't argue with the result. He's limited the damage to just those two first-inning runs and he's got the lead.
In short, it's 2008 at Fenway Park.
End 3rd, Red Sox 3-2: Quietly, Kevin Youkilis is starting to heat up.
Two nights after hitting a three-run home run to tie things up, Youkilis ties it up against the Mariners.
A few pitchers later, David Ortiz sneaks one through the shift to give the Red Sox a 3-2 lead in what was an odd inning. The Youkilis single was the only hard-hit ball, but the Sox still managed to scrape the tying and go-ahead runs across.
Back to Youkilis, though. The third baseman now has seven RBIs in his last six games. It may or may not be a coincidence that Adrian Gonzalez is punishing the baseball in front of him.
Mid 3rd, Mariners 2-1: Daisuke Matsuzaka just worked his best inning of the game thus far, and it came partially at the expense of Milton Bradley.
Bradley, whose anger issues have been well-documented, took a called third strike on a questionable pitch. He looked upset (rightfully so in my opinion), but walked back to the dugout without a word.
Hard to fathom.
End 2nd, Mariners 2-1: Welcome to Fenway Park, Jason Vargas.
The Seattle starter is victimized by Pesky's Pole, as Mike Cameron reaches out and flips a changeup around the right-field foul pole to cut the M's lead in half.
You get the feeling that literally no one in Fenway thought that was going out, and I'm not sure any of them believe it quite yet. Either way, it's Cameron's first home run since July 18 of last season.
Mid 2nd, Mariners 2-0: Daisuke Matsuzaka walks Michael Saunders, who then steals second base, but Dice lives to tell about it. The M's are being aggressive at the plate — the same approach the Rays took in Daisuke's last loss — but he's still struggling to pound the zone. Still, though, he's able to get out of it by getting Ichiro to fly out to left.
A lot has been made for a long time about Red Sox catchers and their ability to throw out base-stealers. Is it a fair criticism? Of course. However, how often do you see stolen bases that are total no contests? A lot.
The point is, is that for some time now, Boston pitchers have struggled to hold runners effectively. So while some of it can be blamed on the catchers, the pitchers continue to do a less-than-average job of holding runners.
End 1st, Mariners 2-0: Lefty Jason Vargas, who is traditionally tougher on right-handed hitters than left-handed, made the Sox pretty uncomfortable in the first.
Except for Adrian Gonzalez.
The first baseman lined a single to right in his first at-bat of the night to give him a six-game hitting streak. He looks locked in at the plate right now, following up a three-hit performance last night with that single.
Vargas was able to sandwich the Gonzalez knock with a pair of ground outs and a strikeout of Kevin Youkilis, though, with the latter coming on a Bugs Bunny changeup.
Mid 1st, Mariners 2-0: So much for that scoreless streak, huh?
Daisuke Matsuzaka looked a lot more like the pitcher that was getting booed early in than the season than the one that left to a standing ovation on Patriots' Day.
Matsuzaka issued a one-out walk to Chone Figgins before giving up a single (aided by a Darnell McDonald error in left) to Miguel Olivo. Justin Smoak made him pay by lacing a single to right that scored both Figgins and Olivo to give the M's the early lead.
It was definitely one of those painful innings for Matsuzaka who struggled to find the strike zone, throwing 26 pitches, with 15 of them coming for strikes.
6:45 p.m.: If for some reason you haven't heard yet, Daisuke Matsuzaka has pitched a couple of really, really good starts.
How good, you ask? Well, he's been historically good in his last two starts. In fact, Dice-K joined just Pedro Martinez, Howard Ehmke and Cy Young as the only pitchers in Boston history to have two consecutive one-hit outings lasting seven innings or more.
With that, he's working on a 15-inning scoreless streak that he'll lay on the line on Friday night. Here's another way to think about that: Following his disatrous start against the Rays on April 11, Matsuzaka's ERA soared to 12.86. He takes the mound on Friday with an ERA of 4.09.
6:23 p.m.: The Patriots just made their first pick on what is likely to be a busy night at the NFL draft, and they went with Ras-I Dowling, a cornerback from UVA.
Hop on over to Jeff Howe's live blog of the draft for more info while we wait for the first pitch from Fenway.
5:50 p.m.: It sounds like Jerry Remy is still a bit under the weather, so Peter Gammons will be in the NESN broadcast booth with Don Orsillo on Friday night.
Hope the Rem Dawg feels better.
Friday night is, of course, the 25th anniversary of Roger Clemens' 20-strikeout game against the Mariners of all teams.
Yours truly hadn't come into this world yet, but it's the type of performance that if you grew up in New England, you've heard and seen enough about to feel like you were there anyway.
Fittingly, the anniversary of the special date happens to fall in the midst of a pretty impressive run of starting pitching from the Red Sox. Boston pitching has allowed three runs or fewer in nine of the team's last 12 games. That run also included a pair of shutouts as well.
Not surprisingly, that run has allowed the Sox to straighten things out some.
4:30 p.m.: Happy Friday, everyone. If you have tickets to Friday night's game, you are in luck because it's an absolutely beautiful day in the Boston area. If you have tickets, however, you probably aren't reading this. Oh well.
Anyway, here is how the Red Sox lineup looks against Seattle lefty Jason Vargas for the first of three at Fenway Park.
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Kevin Youkilis, 3B
David Ortiz, DH
Jed Lowrie, SS
Mike Cameron, RF
Jason Varitek, C
Darnell McDonald, LF
Carl Crawford is out of the lineup one night after picking up a big hit late in a 6-2 win over the Orioles, but he has struggled in his career off of Vargas. He's seen the lefty more than anyone else in the Boston lineup, but he's yet to collect a hit, as he's 0-for-9 against Vargas.
Here's the Mariners lineup:
Ichiro Suzuki, RF
Chone Figgins, 3B
Milton Bradley, LF
Miguel Olivo, C
Justin Smoak, 1B
Jack Cust, DH
Adam Kennedy, 2B
Michael Saunders, CF
Brendan Ryan, SS
More on these lineups in a bit.
8 a.m.: The last time the Red Sox played at Fenway Park, Daisuke Matsuzaka simply dazzled, stealing the show on Patriots' Day. They return home on Friday night, and Matsuzaka will look to pick up right where he left off in front of the home crowd.
The Sox welcome the Seattle Mariners to town, and Matsuzaka will look to keep what's been a very impressive hot streak going. After tossing the Patriots' Day gem, Matsuzaka stayed hot with another dominating performance against the Angels on April 23. In his last two starts, the right-hander has only allowed a combined two hits over 15 innings of work in two wins.
Boston is returning home after a nine-game road trip in which they went 6-3. The three-game set begins what is an 11-day homestand for the Sox, and things won't necessarily be easy for Boston. The Mariners are coming off of a three-game sweep of the Tigers, and 2010 Cy Young award winner Felix Hernandez will get the start on Sunday. On Friday, it will be lefty Jason Vargas who gets the start for the Mariners.
First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. on Friday.
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