The Red Sox may be cursing Michael Saunders for some time to come.
A day after breaking up Jon Lester's no-hit bid with a two-runhomer, Saunders came through again Sunday. His two-run single inthe eighth inning gave Seattle the lead, Milton Bradley followedwith a squeeze bunt to score another run, and the Mariners ralliedfor a 4-2 win over the Red Sox on Sunday.
Saunders entered the weekend with just four hits all seasonagainst left-handed pitching. He got two against Lester, includingthe go-ahead homer in the sixth inning.
A day later, and with his confidence building, the Marinersyoung left fielder slashed a 1-2 pitch from Okajima into rightfield to score Jose Lopez and Justin Smoak, with third-base coachLee Tinsley chasing Smoak almost to the dirt circle around homeplate to get the lead run across.
Saunders is now hitting .309 over his last 19 games.
"We've talked about the necessity for him to face left-handersand continue to play. That's just some more of the investment inhis future," Wakamatsu said.
The surprising Seattle rally left the Red Sox wondering how apossible sweep in Seattle became an unlikely split of the four-gameseries as part of Boston's 10-game West Coast swing.
There were plenty of issues for the Red to Sox ponder aside fromSaunders. Okajima had an opportunity to stem Seattle's eighthinning rally if he makes the correct play on Casey Kotchman'ssacrifice bunt, instead of hesitating and leaving everyone safe andthe bases loaded.
"We always give them the option you know if you're not sure,get an out," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "From there itjust, I don't know if he didn't have a handle, it didn't look likethere was a lot of urgency. They're trying to give you an out andyou'll take it, and a lot of times good things don't happen."
There's also Boston's sputtering offense that scored just fourruns in the final three games of the series in Seattle - andwithout facing Seattle ace Felix Hernandez.
All those factors left the Red Sox quiet and frustrated, andeight games back of the Yankees in the American League East.
"Their pitching is not bad, but we should be able to hit betteragainst them," Boston's David Ortiz said. "We're not facing powerpitching. We have the experience and the ability to dominate."
Seattle's rally started innocently enough with singles by Lopezand Smoak. Kotchman's bunt was botched by Okajima and Saunders hitgave Seattle a 3-2 lead.
Bradley, pinch-hitting, followed Saunders with a squeeze buntfor a base hit - done on his own - that scored Kotchman.
"Man on third, no outs, the last thing they probably expectedme to do was bunt," Bradley said. "I knew if I put it down thereon the right side it was an easy run."
Okajima (3-3) gave up two runs and five hits. One of the runs inthe inning was charged to Daniel Bard, who allowed Lopez's single.
Seattle's rally ruined a strong effort by Boston starter DaisukeMatsuzaka, who struggled with major control problems early beforesettling down to be in line for his third straight win.
Matsuzaka was wild early, at one point in the third inningalready over 60 pitches and with an equal number of strikes andballs. But the Japanese righty settled down and retired 10 of thefinal 11 batters he faced. After Matsuzaka escaped a bases loadedjam in the third, he started rolling, setting down the Mariners inorder in the fourth, then allowed one base runner in the fifth thatwas left at second base.
But his high pitch count early forced Matsuzaka out after sixinnings and Seattle took advantage of Boston's bullpen. Matsuzakaallowed just one run and four hits, but was hampered by five walks.He struck out four.
"I was just desperate in trying to do what I could to give ourteam a chance to win," Matsuzaka said.
Chris Seddon worked 2 2-3 perfect innings of relief for Seattle,but it was Brandon League (8-6) getting the win after he struck outKevin Youkilis for the final out of the eighth inning. DavidAardsma pitched the ninth for his 18th save in 22 chances.
Boston's only runs came in the fourth off Seattle starter DougFister. Kevin Youkilis doubled to score J.D. Drew and Adrian Beltresingled to score Ortiz. But Boston didn't have a base runner afterthe fifth.
NOTES: Smoak's single in the eighth was just his third hit ofSeattle's seven-game homestand. He was 3-for-28 in the homestand.... Francona said it's possible injured C Victor Martinez will beactivated during the Red Sox upcoming series against the Angels.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times