Red Sox-Mariners Preview

The Associated Press

Josh Beckett could be facing the perfect opponent as he gets ready to return for the Boston Red Sox.

Beckett, who has already dominated the Seattle Mariners once this season, makes his first start since June 11 on Saturday night at Safeco Field.

Boston (41-36) has won three of four from Seattle (33-46) this year, splitting the first two games of this four-game set. The Mariners have totaled two runs while batting .153 in the season series. They've also been quite anemic while dropping four of their last six games overall, totaling five runs and getting shut out three times.

That's why Beckett (4-7, 4.14 ERA) figures to have a relatively easy time in his return from the disabled list. He gave up four hits over seven innings May 15 in a 5-0 home win over the Mariners to improve to 7-1 with a 2.30 ERA in nine starts against them since joining Boston in 2006.

The right-hander was placed on the DL on June 16 due to shoulder inflammation, but manager Bobby Valentine expects Beckett to pitch well Saturday.

"Well, if he's healthy, I expect a good performance," Valentine told the Red Sox's official website. "It seems like he's very healthy and has good spirits. Josh is a great pitcher. I expect him to go out there and give us a good outing."

The Mariners' John Jaso is 0 for 9 with four strikeouts against Beckett while the club's home run leader, Justin Smoak, is 0 for 8. Chone Figgins is a .308 hitter versus Beckett, but the outfielder has struggled all year with a .187 average - .133 at home.

Seattle went down meekly 5-0 on Saturday night, its 10th shutout loss of 2012. Boston's Aaron Cook needed only 81 pitches to pitch a two-hitter, his third career shutout and first complete game since June 26, 2010, with Colorado.

The Mariners are batting a major league-worst .197 at home, and .167 through the first five games of their current homestand.

"It's a step back today offensively and that's hard as hell to do the way we've been swinging the bats here at home,'' manager Eric Wedge said. "I'm tired of watching it."

The Red Sox didn't need much offense to prevail, but hit four homers as Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Daniel Nava, Will Middlebrooks and Cody Ross all went deep. That's one more homer than the total the Mariners have produced in their last 10 home games.

David Ortiz had a double in four at-bats, and remains stuck on 399 career homers for Boston, which has won 12 of 16.

Before Friday's game, Seattle placed center fielder Franklin Gutierrez on the seven-day concussion disabled list. Gutierrez was hit in the side of the face with an errant pick-off attempt in Thursday's 1-0 win and spent the night in the hospital.

Nicaraguan rookie Erasmo Ramirez (0-2, 4.18) will make his fourth career start for Seattle. His last one was his best, as he yielded one run and struck out 10 over eight innings of Monday's 1-0 home defeat to Oakland.

"He was outstanding," Wedge said. "I thought his focus was tremendous. He did a great job of keeping the ball down."

The Mariners recalled the 22-year-old right-hander from Triple-A Tacoma on June 13, one day after demoting Blake Beavan. Ramirez, who spent the first month of the season pitching out of the Seattle bullpen before being sent down, was the youngest player to make an opening day roster in 2012.

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