BOSTON – Michael Saunders had watched the post-trade-deadline version of his team fight tooth and nail for five hours against a playoff contender on their home turf.
He’d thrown out a runner at the plate to end the 14th inning, then watched his sinking, potential go-ahead liner stolen by the opposing left fielder an inning later. And later, when his Mariners finally had succumbed, 5-4 in 15 long innings to the Boston Red Sox, Saunders and his teammates headed to the clubhouse and were congratulated by their manager.
It wasn’t a win. But the Mariners really could not have fought much harder than in this defeat.
“I guess both clubs had opportunities throughout the game,’’ Saunders said. “Unfortunately, we were unable to capitalize.’’
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The Red Sox finally broke a long scoring drought in the 15th, with Stephen Drew’s two-out, bases-loaded single to the right-field corner off a tiring Lucas Luetge. What remained of the crowd of 35,059 at Fenway Park erupted in cheers as Dustin Pedroia trotted across the plate to end the 5-hour, 3-minute affair.
The Mariners had seen their front office decline to trade any major-leaguers ahead of Wednesday’s nonwaiver deadline, stating a desire not to break up what had been a competitive, winning combination in July. And several trade candidates played key roles, with Kendrys Morales compiling four hits and Raul Ibanez driving in a go-ahead run in the middle innings.
A young Mariners bullpen held things largely together after a two-run homer by Pedroia in the seventh off Oliver Perez put Boston up 4-3, only to see Kyle Seager tie it in the eighth with a solo blast. Yoervis Medina and Charlie Furbush combined to get through three scoreless innings, Danny Farquhar tossed another three with four strikeouts, and then Luetge was into his third frame before running out of steam.
The teams combined to strand 25 runners, but some stellar pitching and great fielding late had plenty to do with that. Saunders looked like he’d knocked in the go-ahead marker in the 15th, but his slicing line drive was snagged by a diving Jonny Gomes in left.
Ibanez was on second and had read the play, assuming Gomes would not catch the ball. He was already around third when it was caught and could only watch as Gomes jogged back to the infield and stepped on second to complete a rare unassisted double play by a left fielder.
“I guess that’s kind of where the Green Monster comes into play,’’ Saunders said of the storied 38-foot-high left-field wall at Fenway Park. “The teams that play here typically try to stay shallow because anything hit over their heads is a hit anyways. So, I think he kind of played it how we would and made a great play.’’
Ibanez merely shook his head and tipped his cap to Gomes later.
“I had just checked the outfielders after every pitch and saw where they were playing,’’ he said. “And based off the trajectory of Saunders’ ball and the little fade I knew would be on it … I was certain it was going to bounce. Obviously, it didn’t and he made a great play.’’
Saunders had made a huge play the previous inning when Shane Victorino hit a shallow fly to center with a runner on third and one out. Brandon Snyder tried to score anyway and Saunders made a bullet throw to catcher Humberto Quintero, who applied the tag in time.
Saunders said he had no doubt Snyder would go despite the outfield playing in.
“Maybe if there were no outs, it might have been a different story,’’ he said. “But the game going the way it was … I think you take any opportunity.’’
“Give it to our guys,’’ interim manager Robby Thompson said. “They battled for that whole game. They had that one little hiccup in that fifth inning, but other than that, it was good baseball.’’
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or email@example.com