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Closing Time: John Lackey, Red Sox no match for Felix Hernandez, Mariners

06.24.14 at 1:07 am ET
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SEATTLE — It was supposed to be one of the better pitching matchups of the season. It wasn’t. For that you can blame the Red Sox.

Sox starter John Lackey struggled through his worst outing of the season, allowing six runs in the fourth inning before being pulled with two outs in the frame. The righty’s 74-pitch outing was the springboard for what turned into a 12-3 rout by the Mariners on Monday night at Safeco Field.

The seven earned runs were just one fewer than Lackey had totaled in his previous six starts. It was the fourth time this season a Red Sox starter has allowed as many runs, not having suffered such a fate since Jon Lester‘s May 22 outing in Toronto.

“I felt pretty good in the first couple of innings,” Lackey said. “Struggled obviously in the fourth inning, wasn’t able to make a pitch to get out of there. Started going downhill, and couldn’t stop it.”

The Seattle offense was more than enough for M’s starter Felix Hernandez, who had gotten just one run of support in his last three starts. It was the righty’s eighth straight appearance in which he didn’t give up more than a pair of runs.

“Well, not only from a staff standpoint, but in the last year and a half from John Lackey,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said about his team’s rare subpar performance from its pitchers. “He’€™s been a model of consistency, he’€™s pitched so well for us. Not to take anything away from the Mariners hitters, I thought he had very good stuff to open up the game with, and trying to get that final third out in that fourth inning turns into a six-run inning, and at that point, going against Hernandez, that’€™s a tall order to try to come back from.”

Offering another example of how rough it was for the Red Sox was the performance of Seattle’s Logan Morrison, who came into the game hitting .164 but finished the night with four hits (two of which were home runs).

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– Lackey surrendered a second-inning home run to Morrison, only the seventh long ball given up by the starter in his last seven appearances. Lackey came into the game having given up just one home run in his last seven Safeco Field starts.

– For the second time in the game, the Sox starter allowed the Mariners to tie things up after his team had claimed the lead, giving up an RBI single to Kyle Seager with one out in the fourth.

The Mariners took their first lead later in the fourth when Dustin Ackley grounded the 13th pitch of his at-bat to Mike Napoli at first base with the bases loaded (just the third bases-loaded at-bat of the season against Lackey). The first baseman made a nice back-handed stab, firing to second, but Lackey failed to get over to first to finish off a double play, allowing the hosts’ third run to score.

Brock Holt fell victim to perhaps his first misplay of the season in the outfield with two outs in the fourth, allowing Endy Chavez‘s liner to get over his head, resulting in a bases-loaded triple. Holt, who might have been able to break a bit more back on the ball, jumped but just missed the rocket. It would be Lackey’s final batter.

“We’€™re shifted over, didn’t get the best read on it, but there was backspin on it and it got over my head,” Holt explained.

– Reliever Chris Capuano continued to struggle, this time allowing five runs in 2 1/3 innings. He has allowed 10 runs in four innings over his last five outings.

“Just not locating well,” the lefty said. “I’m working hard before the games, throwing off the mound almost every day. Just haven’t quite been able to take what I’ve been working on into the games. Ball’s up, I’m not pounding the bottom of the zone. It seems like I’m falling behind a lot and then leaving balls over the middle. The command just hasn’t been there. It’s frustrating that I’m not able to take what I’m doing before the games into the games.”

- The bottom three of the Red Sox’ batting order — A.J. Pierzynski, Stephen Drew and Jackie Bradley — went a combined 0-for-11. Drew is hitless in his last 18 at-bats.

“I knew it was going to be like this,” said Drew, whose average dropped to .143. “It’€™s the big leagues and that’€™s why it’€™s hard to be here and it’€™s hard to stay. It’€™s something I have to get adjusted to. It’€™s still early.”

Xander Bogaerts took another 0-for-4 and is five for his last 52 (.096).

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

- Hernandez gave up just his third first-inning run of the season, allowing Dustin Pedroia to score on David Ortiz‘s two-out single. Pedroia had jump-started the frame by reaching on an infield hit and advancing on Brad Miller‘s throwing error.

– Hernandez proceeded to give up his first home run in 11 starts, with Napoli just clearing the left-field wall for a solo shot in the fourth inning. It gave the Sox a 2-1 lead. Napoli had come into the game just 6-for-36 against King Felix, but he notched a double first time up, followed by his eighth homer of the season.

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