SEATTLE (AP)—The Boston Red Sox hope all they lost was a game.
Jose Lopez lined a single past diving third baseman Mike Lowell to score Wladimir Balentien with the game-winning run and the Seattle Mariners beat the Red Sox 4-3 on Tuesday night to end a season-high seven-game losing streak.
But all of New England—plus much of Japan and Red Sox fans everywhere else — were anxiously waiting to find out how injured top starter Daisuke Matsuzaka is.
Matsuzaka left the game in which Manny Ramirez hit his 499th home run after throwing two warmup pitches before the bottom of the fifth then briefly holding his back. Yet Red Sox spokesman Henry Mahegan said late Tuesday that “shoulder fatigue” ended Matsuzaka’s chance to join Josh Beckett as the second Boston pitcher since 1971 to begin a season 9-0.
Matsuzaka said he wasn’t sure if he would be able to make his next start, Sunday or Monday at Baltimore.
“It’s hard to say. We are able to assess the situation again tomorrow,” Matsuzaka said through an interpreter, with inquisitors lined five deep surrounding him in an otherwise empty, quiet clubhouse.
Boston has been without starter and six-time All-Star Curt Schilling since early March because of weakness in his pitching shoulder. Beckett missed the first six games of the season with a lower back strain.
“We’ll certainly keep an eye on him,” manager Terry Francona said. “They are going to ice it, let it cool down. … You just always have to err on the side of caution.”
Matsuzaka, the 11th Red Sox pitcher to win his first eight decisions in a season, allowed three runs—two on fielder’s choice ground outs and a third on a double in the first inning by Raul Ibanez—on four hits through four innings. Then, after two seemingly routine warmup pitches before the bottom of the fifth, he appeared to briefly grab his lower back. Francona, an interpreter and a trainer came out to the mound. A moment later, Francona summoned David Aardsma from the bullpen.
“Even before I went on the mound, I felt things were a little bit off in the bullpen,” Matsuzaka said. “I wasn’t at my best. After pitching the fourth inning, I definitely felt there was something wrong, and I had a conversation with the coaching staff.”
Francona said he decided Matsuzaka would not begin the fifth, but the pitcher ran out of the dugout past an unaware Francona to try warmup tosses.
Matsuzaka said he had a similar injury during 2000 or 2001, his second and third seasons with Seibu in Japan’s Pacific League. But he pitched through that and successfully deep into a game, he recalled. Nothing came of the injury after that.
“Since I this is something I have experienced in the past, I’m not overly concerned with the situation right now,” he said, before bowing and cutting off questions.
The ninth inning began with a one-hopper by Balentien that went off the backhanded glove of Alex Cora for an infield single to deep shortstop. Miguel Cairo then sacrificed Balentien to second. Pinch-hitter Jeremy Reed sent Balentien to third base with a ground out and Mike Timlin intentionally walked Ichiro Suzuki before Lopez lined a 1-2 pitch—and then got mobbed near second base by teammates who hadn’t had something to celebrate for most of a dreadful May.
“My back hurt,” Lopez said, smiling. “I wanted to run into center field, because I knew my teammates were trying to kill me.
“I feel great, to stop a seven-game losing streak and see my team laughing again.”
J.J. Putz (2-2) pitched a scoreless top of the ninth for the Mariners, who won for just the sixth time in 26 games.
Timlin (2-3), a former Mariner, is now 0-6 in 15 appearances at Safeco Field.
Ramirez hit a three-run drive that tied the game at 3 in the sixth off starter Miguel Batista. Ramirez quickly dropped his bat and stood spitting and admiring the opposite-field drive. He then pointing the index finger of his right hand toward to blue twilight sky as the ball sailed six rows into the right-field bleachers. About half of the crowd of 30,758 roared as if Safeco Field was Fenway Park.
The inning began with shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt dropped a routine ground ball by Dustin Pedroia. David Ortiz then singled off Batista, who allowed three runs and five hits in seven-plus innings. He struck out two and walked three.
Francona and shortstop Julio Lugo were ejected in the fifth, each for the first time this season. Lugo said he only shouted “Check!” and looked at third-base umpire Angel Hernandez while Hernandez ruled in favor of Seattle’s Raul Ibanez on an appeal of a check swing. Francona came out to separate his player from the smirking, gum-chomping umpire—then got tossed, too, while pointing and index finger at Hernandez.
Suzuki had two hits and his 22nd stolen base off Matsuzaka. Suzuki went 1-for-12 against Matsuzaka in four games in 2007. He went 8-for-34 (.235) in 1999 and 2000, when Matsuzaka was a teenager with Seibu and Suzuki was with Orix in Japan.
1B Kevin Youkilis, one of five Red Sox players leading early voting for the All-Star game, missed a second consecutive start with a sore right hand. He said X-rays Monday showed “nothing.” He is day to day. Sean Casey started for him and had three singles. … Mariners 1B Richie Sexson, batting .200, watched seldom-used Cairo start for him.