BOSTON — As if the Red Sox didn’t have enough hitting, now the lower part of the lineup is heating up.
Led by Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Carl Crawford, their last four batters had seven RBIs and eight hits as Boston pounded Seattle pitchers for a 12-8 win that sent the Mariners to a franchise-worst 15-game losing streak on Sunday.
“Production, one through nine, is what we need,” said Saltalamacchia, who drove in four runs, “and that’s what we’ve got.”
With help from the top of the order to the bottom, the Red Sox swept the Mariners, won their 17th game in their last 20 and kept their three-game lead in the AL East over the New York Yankees, who beat the Oakland Athletics 7-5.
The Red Sox lead the majors with a .279 batting average. And Tim Wakefield (6-3) has benefited from that with his teammates scoring at least 11 runs in four of his last eight starts.
Wakefield joined Roger Clemens as the only pitchers to strike out 2,000 batters with Boston when catcher Saltalamacchia held on to Mike Carp’s foul tip to end the sixth then met him at the first-base line and handed him the ball.
He also moved one win away from his 200th victory. But the 44-year-old knuckleballer left after giving up Brendan Ryan’s grand slam that cut the lead to 11-7 with one out in the seventh.
The standing ovation he got when he struck out Carp to reach the milestone was “pretty special, very emotional for me,” Wakefield said. “I had no idea that it had happened and Salty was walking toward me. I’m like, ‘what’s going on.’ He said, ‘Congratulations on 2,000 strikeouts.’ It was a very cool ovation.”
The Mariners haven’t had many enjoyable moments lately, with each result the same as the previous one — a loss.
“It seems like once again it’s Groundhog Day,” Ryan said. “This is definitely frustrating. There aren’t too many laughs now. There shouldn’t be.”
Boston’s powerhouse lineup had 17 hits with Saltalamacchia, Adrian Gonzalez and Crawford getting three each. Crawford is hitting .330 in his last 27 games and .375 in six games since coming off the disabled list.
“He’s gotten himself comfortable real quick,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.
“I thought he was comfortable before he went on the DL,” Saltalamacchia said. “He was starting to get his swing back. He’s a career .300 hitter. He’s not going to all of a sudden start hitting .220.”
Michael Pineda (8-7) allowed five runs in the first after Seattle took a 2-0 lead and gave up seven runs in 4 1-3 innings.
“He was missing some spots with his fastball and they were aggressive” in the first, Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. “They’re a veteran hitting team. They obviously had a plan.”
The loss broke Seattle’s record for its longest losing streak, set in 1992. It is the longest in the majors since Kansas City lost 19 in a row in 2005.
Ryan’s grand slam?
“Nothing to celebrate there,” he said. “It would have been nice to celebrate with a W.”
Wakefield struggled in the first, giving up a two-run homer to Miguel Olivo, his 14th of the season. But the Red Sox took the lead after sending just four batters to the plate.
Jacoby Ellsbury started the first with a walk and scored on a single by Gonzalez before Kevin Youkilis hit his 14th homer for a 3-2 lead. David Ortiz then singled and Crawford doubled, putting runners at second and third. Saltalamacchia then lined a two-run single to right.
Wakefield allowed just one hit through the next three innings. But in the fifth Ryan doubled home Ichiro Suzuki, who had singled. Again, the Red Sox responded with five runs in the bottom of the inning.
They loaded the bases on a single by Gonzalez, a walk to Youkilis and an infield single by Ortiz. Crawford followed with a hard, two-run single just inside the third-base line, Josh Reddick doubled in a run and Saltalamacchia singled in two more.
After getting his fourth and last strikeout of the game, Wakefield retired just one more batter before giving up four straight hits — singles by Jack Cust, Franklin Gutierrez and Suzuki and Ryan’s second career grand slam and second homer of the year.
Boston’s last two runs scored on RBI singles by Gonzalez in the sixth and Ellsbury in the seventh.
NOTES: Dustin Pedroia extended his hitting streak to 21 games with a double in the sixth. He has reached base in a career-high 33 straight games. … Pineda has allowed five runs or more in four of his last five starts. … Wedge shaved off his long, drooping mustache before the game. “Everybody needs to relax and we need to smile in the clubhouse,” he said. “I was thinking about it f or two days and before I went to bed (Saturday) night I did it. My wife approved.” … Boston is 24-8 in day games, second best in the majors behind the Yankees.
In Saturday night’s game, the Red Sox gave Terry Francona his 1,000th win as a major league manager with a 3-1 victory behind another strong outing by Josh Beckett and a tiebreaking, two-run single by Jacoby Ellsbury in the seventh inning Saturday night.
Seattle stranded eight runners in the last four innings, wasting a strong performance by rookie right-hander Blake Beavan.
“The story of us for the past few weeks is we just haven’t got that big hit in the big time,” said Dustin Ackley, who had three hits but struck out to end the game. “We get hits to lead off the inning and then later in the inning we don’t get that big hit.”
Big hits haven’t been a problem for the Red Sox, whose .277 average leads the majors. Four of their starters are hitting over .300 with Ellsbury at .319.
“He’s been good in all situations,” Francona said. “He’s pretty special right now. You’ve got that guy (Dustin Pedroia) behind him and you know they don’t want to face him.”
Meanwhile, the Mariners tied the 1992 team’s mark for consecutive losses after loading the bases in the eighth against Daniel Bard, but the reliever got out of the jam. He has now held teams scoreless in 24 straight innings over 23 outings, the longest active shutout streak in the majors.
“He got himself into a bind and got himself right out of it,” Francona said. “Not many guys can do that.”
Francona seemed more impressed with Bard and Beckett (9-3, 2.07 ERA) than he was with becoming the 57th manager with 1,000 wins and the eighth still active.
“David (Ortiz) poured a beer on my back. I’m kind of sticky now,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a really big deal. I really don’t.”
Boston moved a season-high three games ahead of the New York Yankees for the lead in the AL East. Seattle is in last place in the West.
“We just left too many runners in scoring position,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “Bases loaded, nobody out and get nothing out of it. Second and third, one out, getting nothing out of it. That’s the ballgame right there.”
Beckett allowed seven hits and one walk and struck out seven. The only run he allowed came on a homer in the seventh by Mike Carp, his second in two nights since being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma last Monday.
Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth for his 23rd save in 24 chances.
Beavan (1-2) retired the first two batters in the bottom of the seventh then allowed three straight hits, including the single by Ellsbury.
Beavan’s pitch headed for the outside corner but “it caught a little bit more of the plate than I wanted it to,” he said, “but he made a good swing on it and hit it back up the middle.”
A single by Pedroia against David Pauley and a walk to Adrian Gonzalez by Aaron Laffey loaded the bases before Ellsbury scored on Laffey’s wild pitch.
Seattle had wasted a chance to make it 2-0 in the top of the seventh with runners at first and third and two outs. Brendan Ryan hit a sharp grounder to the left of third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who dived and threw Ryan out.
“I was a little spent in the seventh,” Beckett said. “Youk made a great play to hold it down to one run.”
Ackley began the eighth with a single and took second on a walk to Justin Smoak. Adam Kennedy then bunted, and Bard fielded it and threw to Youkilis, whose foot was off the base. Then, Bard retired Carp on a shallow fly to left, Jack Cust on a strikeout and Franklin Gutierrez on a groundout.
Both teams had five hits through six innings with the Mariners leaving four runners in scoring position through six innings before Carp’s homer.
Cust was stranded at second after a two-out double in the second. Smoak also was left at second in the fourth after grounding into a forceout and advancing on a wild pitch by Beckett. And Seattle stranded runners at second and third in the sixth after the first two batters, Ichiro Suzuki and Ryan, singled.
The Red Sox got a one-out double in the first from Pedroia, but the next two batters struck out. The hit extended Pedroia’s career-best hitting streak to 20 games.
Boston nearly scored in the second when Ortiz led off with a double and took third on a single by Carl Crawford. Josh Reddick popped out to second base before Jason Varitek hit a flyball to medium center field. Gutierrez made the catch, then threw home on a fly to double up Ortiz, who had tagged.
Notes: Pedroia has reached base in 32 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the majors… Carp had been optioned to Triple-A Tacoma on July 3 when Beavan was called up. … Former Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell, who retired after last season, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. … Beckett has allowed more than three runs just twice in his 19 starts this season. … Beavan has allowed a total of nine runs in his four starts.