Mariners 2, Red Sox 0
SEATTLE (AP)—This one meant more to Gil Meche than his previous complete games.
“It’s really been a struggle for me this year, but this is the game I’ve been waiting for—for my breaking ball to be there and for the whole game to have my good heater,” Meche said.
Shut out for the third time this season, Boston fell 3 1/2 games behind the first-place New York Yankees in the AL East. The Red Sox have a five-game lead over Anaheim in the wild-card race.
“We’re in a good spot,” Johnny Damon said. “We know the teams in the West are going to start beating each other up. We’re just going to have to play good ball if we want to get to the playoffs. And we know we’re going to play good ball.”
Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki went 2-for-4 with singles in the first and eighth, boosting his total to 231 hits this season. With 20 games remaining, Suzuki is batting .374 and needs 27 hits to break the 84-year-old major league record of 257 by George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns.
Meche (5-6) walked one, struck out four and retired 12 of his final 13 batters in his third career complete game.
“He felt strong. He wanted it,” Seattle manager Bob Melvin said. “I wanted to make sure when we talked after the eighth inning that he wanted to go back out there. And he did. He wanted it bad.”
It was the first time Meche pitched nine innings—his other two complete games were shortened to five innings because of rain. His other shutout was a five-inning one-hitter in a 7-0 victory at Kansas City on June 13, 2000.
“That doesn’t count,” Meche said. “A five-inning rainout doesn’t mean anything to me. I kept waiting for this one. I finally got this one under my belt. I feel like I can get a few more.”
It also carried special significance for Meche because the Red Sox have been streaking, going 30-10 since Aug. 1.
“To shut a team like this down, when they’re in a pennant race and they’ve scored the most runs in baseball, it’s great,” Meche said. “They’ve got a tough lineup and I just made some good pitches.”
Meche was 1-5 with a 7.06 ERA before being demoted to Triple-A Tacoma on June 2. In nine starts since being recalled July 30, he’s 4-1 with a 3.45 ERA. He’s also won four of his last five decisions.
The explanation for his improvement is simple: Meche has been throwing strikes, and he’s added a knuckle-curve that was nasty on Sunday.
“We caught him on a good one,” Damon said. “He did a great job.”
The teams split four games, ending Boston’s streak of seven straight series victories. The Red Sox came into Sunday as the highest-scoring team in the majors with 825 runs.
Boston had a poor start Sunday—a first-inning baserunning mistake by Manny Ramirez, whose one-out double moved Damon to third. When Jason Varitek flied to right, Ramirez got doubled up to end the inning.
“I was just trying to get a good jump,” said Ramirez, who thought the ball was lower and would drop for a hit.
Derek Lowe (14-11) dueled with Meche but was denied in his bid for a third straight 15-win season. He pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits with six strikeouts and one walk.
“I thought Derek threw well, very well,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “He just got behind in the count to a guy who is a good fastball hitter and left it out over the plate.”
Ibanez put the Mariners up 2-0 in the sixth, driving a 2-0 sinker from Lowe an estimated 408 feet into the center-field stands. Edgar Martinez was on base after a two-out single.
“He got it up a little bit,” Ibanez said. “I was in a good position to hit it, and I hit it pretty good.”
After issuing a full-count walk to Damon leading off the sixth, Meche gave up a single to Orlando Cabrera to put runners at the corners.
“Boonie made the play today,” Meche said. “If he doesn’t catch that ball, they score a run and have first and second, maybe even first and third. The game changed a little bit. D-Lowe was shutting us down. If he gets a little momentum, he’d have probably done the same thing I did.”
Meche shut down the Red Sox again in the seventh. After Trot Nixon’s leadoff single, he got Bill Mueller to fly to center, struck out David McCarty and retired pinch-hitter David Ortiz on a liner to third.
Damon has reached base safely in 22 straight games. … University of Washington basketball standout Nate Robinson threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Seconds later, C Dan Wilson brought out Seattle’s lineup card. … Seattle LF Randy Winn made a nice catch on a deep fly by Varitek in the fourth, nearly losing the ball in the sun.