Seattle skipper Eric Wedge tried shaving the mustache. He tried lightening the mood. But on Sunday at Fenway Park, the Red Sox lit up a Seattle rookie barely old enough to shave as the harried Mariners lost, 12-8, for their franchise-record 15th straight setback.
All-Star right-hander Michael Pineda had his third straight rough start, giving up eight hits and seven runs in 4 1/3 innings, the shortest outing of his brief career.
"That's a pretty good lineup," a shell-shocked Pineda said in a near-silent visitors' clubhouse. "I tried to make good pitches. I don't know. ... It's pretty hard right now. We all feel really bad."
Pineda, 22, was one of baseball's brightest new lights over the first half of the season, but he has surrendered 19 runs and 21 hits over his last 15 2/3 innings, going 0-2 with a 10.91 ERA in road games at Anaheim, Toronto and Boston.
The youngster is 8-7 with a 3.64 ERA and looking more vulnerable after the Red Sox ripped him for five runs and six hits in the first inning en route to a series sweep and their 17th win in the past 20 games.
Despite Wedge's decision to eliminate the trademark 'stache he's worn since signing on with Seattle last October, the Mariners broke their 1992 record of 14 straight defeats and have lost more consecutive games than any Major League team since Kansas City dropped 19 straight in 2005. Since 1919, the most consecutive losses by an American League team is 21, set by the Orioles in '88. The '61 Phillies own the Major League mark of 23.
Shortstop Brendan Ryan blasted a grand slam in the seventh inning off Tim Wakefield to narrow the final margin as he finished with a career-high five RBIs in a 2-for-4 day, but Seattle couldn't get the pitching needed to slow down the front-running Red Sox.
"I honestly feel like every time we suit up, we're going to win," Ryan said. "It's beyond "Groundhog Day." It seems redundant. A lot of things have to be going right and wrong. It's pretty unbelievable."
Pineda was far from alone in his struggles Sunday. Left-hander Aaron Laffey replaced him in the fifth inning and gave up four straight hits without recording an out. The Red Sox wound up with 17 hits against five Seattle pitchers and earned their first sweep of Seattle at Fenway since 2003.
Pineda has been the prize rookie in Seattle's rotation this season, and Boston hit him so hard early that several Mariners wondered if he was tipping his pitches.
"You tip your hat, they swung the bats real well today," said Ryan. "Obviously something was going on with Pineda. You're not teeing off on a guy like that just coincidentally. They saw something. Hopefully we can figure that out, because he's too good to be hit like that."
Catcher Miguel Olivo said the Red Sox seemed to lay off the youngster's slider in the first inning and zero in on his heater until he went to the mound and suggested a slight adjustment. But the veteran acknowledged Boston's lineup is plenty potent on its own after scoring 22 runs in the three-game sweep against Felix Hernandez and rookies Pineda and Blake Beavan.
"They're swinging it," Olivo said. "They're a good team. They're competing with the Yankees for first place. I know he's one of the best pitchers, but right now that team is hot and we're struggling. Maybe he was tipping something and they were taking advantage of that. I'm not 100 percent. You never know."
Wedge said Pineda was "missing his spots" early, which you can't do against a good-hitting club that leads the American League in scoring. Boston has now had double-digit scoring in 14 games this season, which is 12 more times than the Mariners.
Red Sox skipper Terry Francona said his team wanted to jump on Pineda before he started throwing his top gas.
"We were fortunate," Francona said. "Pineda has a reputation as you get in the game, he starts getting stronger, as a lot of guys do. And we got to him before he got in a rhythm and got comfortable."
The Mariners rang up 13 hits of their own and scored their most runs since a 9-6 victory at Tampa Bay on June 5, but several mistakes cost them. Justin Smoak was thrown out easily at home plate to end a first-inning rally after the Mariners jumped to a quick 2-0 lead on Olivo's 14th home run. Ichiro Suzuki was picked off first with runners on first-and-third and one out in the fifth.
Wedge said the club was too aggressive in trying to push across Smoak with an early run and that Ichiro simply made a bad baserunning mistake when Wakefield pulled off a fake to third and got him going in the fifth.
"The third-to-first can't happen with Ichi," Wedge said. "We can't give them an out right there. I've said all along, when you're in a stretch like this, your veterans have to lead the way and the last thing you want is to see them make mistakes, whether on the basepaths or in the field or wherever it might be."
Boston tacked on five more in the fifth off Pineda and Laffey before Jamey Wright came on to halt the onslaught. All-Star closer Brandon League mopped up in the eighth inning, making just his second appearance since July 5 -- which happens to be the day of the Mariners' last win.
"There's definitely frustration. I don't hear too many laughs right now and there shouldn't be," said Ryan. "We battled today, we just couldn't make up enough ground."
Even his slam did nothing to salvage a smile.
"Definitely nothing to celebrate there right now," Ryan said. "It's pretty meaningless, lost in another 'L.'"Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times