I’m sitting here in the press box at Fenway Park trying to figure out how the Mariners got to this point. They are 5-0 on the road trip and have a realistic chance of sweeping it with Felix Hernandez starting on Sunday.
Raise your hand if at the beginning of the week you thought a sweep was possible? Anyone who is raising their hand, put it down cause you are lying to me and yourself.
No one expected this.
And I’m still not sure how they’ve done it. Look the wins in Detroit were a little more explainable. The Mariners pitched well, got plenty of timely hits and the Tigers bullpen and Phil Coke were terrible.
Yesterday’s win over the Red Sox was a little surprising, but Bobby Jenks has been awful of late so the Mariners rallying off him wasn’t as big of a surprise, yes even if Jack Cust got the go-ahead hit.
But tonight? Seattle should have lost. And the certainly shouldn’t have had the first shutout at Fenway since April of 2010 when the Rangers did the same thing.
“That’s not easy to do in this ball park,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.
Yes a few of the Sox hitters are struggling, but come on, this is a lineup that is stacked.
And Doug Fister wasn’t particularly good tonight. Just ask him.
“It was definitely a struggle,” Fister said. “Most important for me tonight was trying to keep it down. It felt like a constant struggle. I kept missing up, kept missing off the plate.”
Fister had runners on every inning but the second, and yet he never gave up a run.
It started in the first inning when the Red Sox loaded the bases with one out. But Fister struck out Ortiz and coaxed a fly ball from J.D. Drew to get out unscathed.
“You talk about working and making pitches, that’s incredible effort right there,” Wedge said. “He really bows his neck and gets after it.”
It continued all game. Fister would give up hits or walk hitters and find ways to get out like some sort of pitching Houdini.
“He really competes out there,” Wedge said. “It looks to me like he’s at his best when it’s a tough situation.”
Did luck play a part? Perhaps.
In the fifth inning with a runner on first, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia hit a pair of balls – one down each baseline – that would have been certain doubles. But both were foul by about three or four inches.
Instead, he drew one of Fister’s five walks. With runners on first and second, Adrian Gonzalez ripped a line drive to second that Jack Wilson caught and flipped to second to double off Jacoby Ellsbury. Replays show that Ellsbury was safe. But the umps owed the Mariners one after this play, which led to Milton Bradley’s ejection.
Fister then got Kevin Youkilis to pop out to Justin Smoak in foul territory to end the threat.
Fister somehow gave the Mariners 5 2/3 shutout innings, giving up five hits, walking five batters and striking out four.
“You gotta make pitches up here in general, but especially against a team with a group of hitters like that,” Wedge said. “They made him work. But he never gave into them. By not giving in, he gave himself every opportunity to work through it and that’s what he did.”
Fister also got some help from his defense and his bullpen. He left with two outs in the fifth with runners on first and second, giving way to Laffey.
The little left-hander fell behind 2-0 to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but got him to pop up a pitch into foul territory near the fence between the backstop and Red Sox dugout. Olivo raced over and made a brilliant catch fighting off a pair of Red Sox fans in the process.
“Yeah a couple of them hit me,” he said. “But I was going to make that catch no matter what.”
It drew a rare burst of emotion from Fister as he watched from the dugout.
“That’s momentum,” he said. “Everybody came back in the dugout after that and had fire in their eyes and were ready to play. We came out from the get-go with that, but those kinds of plays, the double play line drive from Adrian Gonzalez, those kinds of things really turn things around.”
Like Fister, Laffey found himself in trouble in the seventh with runners on second and third with two outs after walking Adrian Gonzalez and giving up a double to Kevin Youkilis.
Facing David Ortiz, Laffey got ahead 0-2 and after a few curveballs in the dirt, he got him to harmlessly fly out.
“Considering that pretty much every hitter before that I was falling behind, it was big to get ahead,” he said. “I went with a four-seamer in and it was enough to get him hit a lazy fly ball.”
Despite “feeling he had nothing out there,” Laffey pitched 2 1/3 innings of shutout baseball before giving way to Brandon League, who picked up his seventh save in seven chances.