Dustin Ackley wouldn’t give in.
Sure there were harder-hit balls on the night that led to more runs — specifically a pair of home runs from Logan Morrison, who went 4 for 4 with four RBI in his best game as a Mariner.
Yet it was his Ackley’s tenacious at-bat against Red Sox starter John Lackey that propelled the Mariners to a lead that continued to swell into an eventual 12-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Monday night at Safeco Field.
It was the Mariners’ fourth consecutive victory. At 41-36, they are five games over .500 for just the second time this season.
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“I told him that his at-bat, for me, was the ballgame,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He looked at me kind of crazy because I think he was 0 for 4. But that was a great at-bat. He really battled. It did open up the floodgates. And we just took off from there.”
It all started in the fourth inning.
The Mariners had just tied the game at 2-2 on Kyle Seager’s run-scoring single to right that scored Robinson Cano.
An irritated Lackey began a slow implosion that would end his start. He gave up a ground-ball single to Morrison that he seemed to feel should have been caught by his shifted defense, angrily yelling in the direction of second baseman Dustin Pedroia and Stephen Drew when they failed to come up with it. Lackey then walked Mike Zunino to load the bases, bringing Ackley to the plate.
Lackey got up 1-2 after Ackley fouled off back-to-back pitches. From there Lackey tried to put Ackley away with strike three.
But it never happened. Ackley wouldn’t allow it.
He refused to chase the ensuing pitch in the dirt, fouled five pitches off in a row, ignored another curveball out of the zone and then fouled off two more pitches.
“I had a great view of it from second base,” Morrison said. “He was just fouling off everything.”
On the 13th pitch of the marathon at-bat, Ackley hit a hard ground ball to first base that was gloved by Mike Napoli and fired to second for an out. It might have been a double play. But for some reason, Lackey didn’t cover first base. Ackley sprinted across the first-base bag, and the go-ahead run scored.
“It was a battle the whole time,” Ackley said. “I just wanted to put one in play there to score a run. I think there were one or two pitches I could’ve handled that I fouled off. The rest were cutters down and in, curveballs down and in. I was just trying to put the bat on it the best I could.”
Had Lackey covered first base, the inning might have been over. The play would have been close.
“Off the bat, I could tell Lackey wasn’t getting over (to first),” Ackley said. “I knew there wasn’t going to be a double play.”
It only got worse for Lackey. He walked Brad Miller and gave up a single to Willie Bloomquist to load the bases again. The ageless Endy Chavez unloaded them with one swing. Lackey hung a curveball and Chavez hammered it over the head of right fielder Brock Holt, who froze for a second, and then tried to make a retreating, leaping grab to no avail. It ended Lackey’s night. He gave up seven runs on seven hits with two walks, three strikeouts and a wild pitch in 32/3 innings of work.
The six-run fourth inning put the Mariners up 7-2. From there, they turned the game into a rout against the Boston bullpen, scoring a plethora of runs for starting pitcher Felix Hernandez, perhaps an attempt to make up for the recent run of anemic offensive outings for their ace.
Hernandez was his typical self, pitching seven innings, giving up two runs on six hits with six strikeouts and no walks.
“I thought he was pretty good,” McClendon said.
It was the eighth consecutive start that he pitched seven or more innings and allowed two or fewer runs. It broke the club record of seven he shared with Randy Johnson.
“He’s really good,” Hernandez said of Johnson. “I’m happy.”
It wasn’t his most dominant outing of the season. He gave up a run in the first inning on Napoli’s run-scoring double.
The Mariners tied the game in the second on Morrison’s first homer of the night and third of the season — a towering blast deep into right field.
But Hernandez gave up his first home run in 12 starts (“It was?” he asked) when Napoli hit one just over the left-field wall in the fourth.
Given the 7-2 lead after four innings, Hernandez worked a 1-2-3 fifth inning and allowed just two more hits the rest of the way to improve to 9-2 on the season.
Meanwhile, his teammates just kept scoring runs. They added another run in the fifth on Morrison’s run-scoring single. And in the seventh, when it was clear Hernandez’s night was over, they added four more. Cano and Seager had back-to-back run-scoring singles, and Morrison blasted a two-run homer over the wall in center field.
The 12 runs tied a season high. They also scored 12 runs in a Hernandez start against the Rays on May 12 at Safeco Field.
“I was so happy,” he said. “They really came through.”
Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373