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Mariners 1, Red Sox 0Mariners 1, Red Sox 0

Sox lose heartbreaker on Jaso walkoff single

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / June 29, 2012
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SEATTLE — Franklin Morales matched the great Felix Hernandez pitch for pitch for seven innings on Thursday night. The difference was that Hernandez had two more innings left to give.

The Seattle Mariners gave their ace a well-earned victory, scoring a run in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Red Sox, 1-0.

Pinch hitter John Jaso singled to right field, driving in Casper Wells from second base. The throw from Cody Ross beat Wells to the plate, but catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia could not hold onto the ball.

“That’s a play I have to make,” Saltalamacchia said, “especially in a game like that.”

Wells had doubled off Scott Atchison (2-1) with one out. After Justin Smoak was intentionally walked, Jaso lined the first pitch he saw into right.

“The only thing you can do in that situation is get the ball out of your glove as fast as you can and try and give your catcher a shot,” Ross said. “I thought we had him.”

Saltalamacchia was despondent afterward.

“I knew Cody was going to make a great throw and he did. It was right on the money,” he said. “I’ve got to do a better job of holding onto it in a big situation like that.”

Hernandez (6-5) was immense, matching his career high with 128 pitches in his fifth career shutout. He allowed five hits, all singles, walked one, and struck out 13, also tying his career best.

Outside of Mike Aviles, every Red Sox starter struck out at least once.

“He was great,” Dustin Pedroia said. “That’s the best we’ve seen. He was unreal, man. His stuff was moving all over the place.”

Hernandez pitched to the wide strike zone of umpire Adrian Johnson, working the corners with his fastball.

Morales was brilliant again in his new role, throwing seven shutout innings and scattering three hits, all singles. He waked two and struck out seven. Morales has a 2.00 earned run average in three starts since he replaced an injured Josh Beckett in the rotation.

“It was a great pitching duel,” Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. “Franklin Morales has really good stuff and extended himself further and put up zeroes the entire way. We just couldn’t score off of Hernandez. He was even a little better.”

In three starts since he joined the rotation, Morales has allowed four earned runs over 18 innings with three walks and 24 strikeouts. In his last five appearances, Morales has struck out 31 in 25 innings while giving up four earned runs.

The 109 pitches he threw were 23 more than his last start.

“I felt very good with my concentration and my pitches. I tried to make my first pitch for a strike and locate my fastball to both sides of the plate,” Morales said.

Facing Hernandez, a fellow Venezuelan, Morales never backed down.

“You know what? He’s one of the best pitchers in the American League. I don’t think about him. I’m going to pitch my game,” Morales said. “I’m going to make my pitches. I tried to pay attention hitter by hitter.”

The Sox were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position with their best chance coming in the ninth inning.

David Ortiz singled up the middle with one out before Saltalamacchia worked a walk. Adrian Gonzalez got ahead 3 and 0 and swung and missed at a fastball.

After fouling off four pitches in a row, Gonzalez hit a fly ball to the fence in left-center at spacious Safeco Field that was caught.

“That’s probably off the wall in any other park,” Gonzalez said.

Said Valentine: “Adrian did all he could do.”

Will Middlebrooks was next and he popped up the first pitch he saw to second base. Middlebrooks is 1 for 15 since the trade that send Kevin Youkilis to the White Sox.

Hernandez retired the first eight Red Sox in order, striking out four. That ended when Aviles and Daniel Nava had singles with two outs in the third inning.

Pedroia, who has been swinging the bat well in the last week, connected on a cut fastball and drove it to the gap in left. But what looked like a double as it left the bat landed in the glove of center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, who covers ground as well as any outfielder in the game.

The Red Sox advanced another runner into scoring position in the seventh inning when Gonzalez singled and moved up on a wild pitch while Middlebrooks was at bat. But Middlebrooks struck out, as did Ross.

Morales did not allow a hit until Gutierrez led off the bottom of the fourth with a single to center field.

With Gutierrez leading off first, Morales made a quick pickoff attempt that was high and wide. Gonzalez couldn’t reach across in time and the ball struck Gutierrez on the right side of his face.

Gutierrez collapsed on the grass and was there for several minutes before he was helped to the dugout. Michael Saunders replaced him.

Morales threw over to first several times to keep Saunders close to the bag, drawing boos from the crowd of 20,692 at Safeco Field. He then struck out Jesus Montero and Wells to end the inning.

The Mariners advanced their first runner into scoring position in the seventh inning when Smoak singled to center with out and took second on a wild pitch.

Morales struck out Miguel Olivo on a foul tip that hit the dirt. But none of the umpires saw it. Dustin Ackley was next and he hit a slow roller to the right side of the mound. Morales underhanded the ball to Gonzalez and the first baseman missed it for an error.

That gave Brendan Ryan a chance and he grounded to third.

Aaron Cook, who played at Colorado with Morales, said before the game that Morales is living up to the potential he showed early in his career.

“What you’re seeing now is a confident Franklin Morales. He’s out there doing his thing,” Cook said. “He’s definitely always had that kind of arm.”

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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