Mariners fall to Red Sox in 15 innings

BOSTON — This beginning of the post-trade-deadline era for the Seattle Mariners proved just as competitive as many of the contests leading up to it.

A big reason the Mariners avoided breaking up their team by dealing off veterans was a desire to keep intact a competitive squad that had recently started winning more than it loses. And though the Mariners ultimately did lose Wednesday night, 5-4 to the Boston Red Sox in 15 innings, they made their opponents fight every inch of the way.

Dustin Pedroia drew a leadoff walk in the 15th against Lucas Luetge and took second on a ground out. Luetge then walked Mike Napoli intentionally, struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia, then walked Jonny Gomes to load the bases.

Stephen Drew then drove a pitch by a tiring Luetge — in his third inning of work, into the right-field corner to win it.

What remained of the crowd of 35,059 at Fenway Park erupted in frenzied cheers as Pedroia crossed the plate to end the 5-hour, 3-minute affair.

The Red Sox could have won it in the 14th when Brandon Snyder attempted to tag up and score on a fly to center. But he was nabbed at the plate by a bullet throw from Michael Saunders to keep the game going.

Kendrys Morales helped justify the team’s decision not to deal him away by logging four hits. Raul Ibanez, another rumored trade candidate, drove in a go-ahead run early on with a single.

And a young bullpen that stepped in with the game tied in the eighth inning simply refused to yield.

But in the end, the Mariners could not come up with a big hit despite several chances to retake the lead after regulation play.

Their best shot came in the 15th, when, with two on and one out, Saunders hit a sinking liner to left that looked like it would fall in. But newly-inserted Gomes made a diving, shoestring catch and — since Ibanez had been waved around third by that point — was able to race all the way in to second himself and step on the bag to complete the double play.

Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma didn’t allow an earned run over his 52/3 innings. And that was something, considering the Red Sox loaded the bases with one out in the first and had David Ortiz at the plate.

But Iwakuma got a double-play grounder that included a force out at home, then later escaped another bases-loaded situation in the same inning. The one thing he couldn’t escape was more defensive adventures by the Mariners in the fifth.

With a runner on second and no out, Dustin Ackley dropped a Jacoby Ellsbury’s fly to center, putting runners at the corners. It was the first error of the year for Ackley and was followed moments later by second baseman Nick Franklin having a line drive go off his glove.

Instead of potentially turning a double play, the second error in a row by the Mariners allowed the tying run to score and put Ellsbury on third base. He soon scored on a ground out to make it 2-1 Boston.

But the Mariners came right back in the sixth, loading the bases with one out. Morales hit a sacrifice fly to left and recently-acquired catcher Humberto Quintero managed to beat the throw home by left fielder Mike Carp and tie the game.

Moments later, a single to right field by Ibanez put the Mariners back in front, 3-2.

That lead lasted only an inning, before Pedroia stepped up with a runner on first and unloaded a blast over the Green Monster in left field to put Boston back in front, 4-3.

The Red Sox pulled starter John Lackey to start the eighth and inserted relief pitcher Junichi Tazawa in his place. But Tazawa managed just one out before Seager took him over the wall in right-center to tie the game at 4-4.

Both teams then settled in for a prolonged bullpen battle.

Pinch-runner Brendan Ryan replaced Morales after his fourth single of the game to start the 11th and was barely thrown out at second on a fielder’s choice grounder by Michael Morse.

Replays showed Ryan appearing to beat the throw to the bag. The call proved huge as Saunders hit a single to center moments later that might have scored Ryan.

Instead, Ackley wound up hitting a line drive that center fielder Ellsbury made a diving stop on for the inning’s final out.

The earlier substitution of Ryan for Morales came back to bite the Mariners in the 12th when two walks and a wild pitch put runners at the corners with two out. Morales’ spot was due up next, but the Mariners were forced to bat Ryan instead. Ryan came up having had only 26 at-bats in July.

Ryan popped out foul to first base and the rally was over.