BOSTON — For nearly seven innings, he’d gotten away with carrying the weight of his team on his fledgling major-league shoulders.
Blake Beavan had ignored the pressure of history and scrapped and clawed like the rest of his Seattle Mariners teammates, trying to outlast the 90-degree humidity and a losing streak inching toward a franchise-record-tying 14 games. But Beavan simply couldn’t outlast the Boston Red Sox, who staged a two-out, three-run rally in the seventh to defeat the Mariners 3-1 Saturday night and guarantee them a dubious share of Seattle baseball lore.
The players around Beavan in the clubhouse afterward, emotionally and physically spent from trying to avoid what’s now reality, had gone toe-to-toe with Boston in likely their toughest-fought game of this 2½-week stretch. But in the end, as has happened so often this bizarre season, they could not finish things off.
“I’m a part of this team and we’re struggling as a team right now, but good things are going to happen if we keep going day in and day out trying to get better at what we’re trying to do,” Beavan said. “Whether it’s making pitches or making at-bats. That’s the hardest thing when you’re going through a losing streak. To get out of it. But we’ll find a way and when we do, hopefully we can take off and go from there.”
Despite the seventh-inning collapse, the Mariners were inches away on a few occasions from perhaps having things end differently. They had gone ahead 1-0 in the top of the seventh on a solo homer by Mike Carp when Brendan Ryan appeared to drive in a second run with a slow hopper to third with runners at the corners and two outs.
Boston third baseman Kevin Youkilis appeared to have no chance at throwing Ryan out as Franklin Gutierrez raced home from third. But Youkilis lunged forward at the ball and made a desperation throw from his knees to beat Ryan by a half-step.
The crowd of 38,115 at Fenway Park went wild. Ryan clasped his hands to his batting helmet in disbelief, dropped to his knees and stayed there several moments. Boston took the lead with three in the bottom of the inning.
Seattle then saw hope rise and quickly fall in the eighth, loading the bases with none out against reliever Daniel Bard. But Carp popped out, Jack Cust struck out looking and Gutierrez grounded out.
Then, with one on in the ninth, Ryan clubbed a long drive to left off closer Jonathan Papelbon that landed a half-foot foul from tying the score.
Instead, Papelbon closed it out and the Mariners had tied their 1992 squad with the longest losing streak in franchise history.
“We just left too many runners in scoring position,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “Bases loaded and nobody out and getting nothing out of it. Second and third and one out and getting nothing out of it. That’s the ballgame right there. When I talk about toughness and fighting through (at-bats), those are the situations I’m talking about. You’ve got to get something out of there. You’ve got to stick your nose in there and get something out of it.”
Wedge felt Beavan “was outstanding” and had no qualms leaving him in the game in the seventh to face left-handed hitter Jacoby Ellsbury after a two-out single by Jason Varitek and ground-rule double by Marco Scutaro. Aaron Laffey was warming up in the bullpen, but Wedge stuck with Beavan, who caught too much plate with a four-seam fastball and watched Ellsbury line it to center for two runs that settled the game.
David Pauley came on from there and allowed a single that sent Ellsbury to third. Ellsbury then scored when Laffey entered and uncorked a wild pitch.
A half-inning earlier, it seemed like Carp’s second homer in as many nights — a long blast over the Boston bullpen in one of the deeper parts of this park in right center — might decide things. Carp had made a tough catch in left to bail out Beavan from a fourth-inning jam as well.
But he couldn’t come through in the eighth. Wedge felt Carp was overanxious and admitted “there’s a lot of that going around” as the Mariners try to end this streak.
“We don’t want to be on a 14-game losing streak,” Carp said. “We want to win just as bad as the next team. We’re fighting hard. We’re coming up just a little short every time.”