Red Sox

Seattle lefty keeps Boston guessing

(Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports)

SEATTLE – For a brief moment, there existed a sliver of hope for the Red Sox Monday night at Safeco Field.  It came during the sixth inning, and if you blinked, you missed it.

For the first four innings, Seattle Mariners lefty James Paxton had tamed the slumping Sox lineup with ease, retiring the first 12 hitters in succession. The Sox didn’t manage a baserunner until the fifth when Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a soft liner that fell in center.  Two straight strikeouts, however, resulted in Bradley being stranded in the fifth.

Five innings, one baserunner.

After one out in the sixth, the Sox had their chance. Trailing 4-0, Boston stirred as Brock Holt reached on an error and took second in when Mookie Betts delivered the second Sox’ hit of the night, a single to left.

Andrew Benintendi then got ahead 2-and-0 against Paxton, a rare case of the Mariners’ starter falling behind.

“He came back with a 2-and-0 fastball, but I was looking for something more middle (of the plate), middle-in, to drive,’’ said Benintendi. “It was down and on the outer third, so I took that. I was still in a good spot. Then he came back with two cutters.

“It’s tough. He’s throwing (his fastball) 98-99 mph and a cutter at 92 mph. It’s tough.’’

“When he did get behind,’’ said John Farrell of Paxton, “he found a way to get right back in the count. He was able to get back in the count with quality stuff, with two breaking pitches for finishing pitches. And he was able to get the big strikeout when needed.’’

Benintendi swung through both of them. Instead of seizing the moment, the Sox seized up.

“Especially with a guy like (Paxton),’’ mused Benintendi, “you get a couple of guys on, you essentially have to get something out of it, or it’s going to be a long night.’’

And it was. Dustin Pedroia fared no better, striking out for what would be the second of three times on the night.

The Sox would get one more opportunity in the seventh when back-to-back singles put baserunners the corners with no out. But Paxton slipped a curveball past Chris Young for a called strike three and induced an inning-ending double play from Deven Marrero. The Sox were on their way to being shut out for the ninth time this season.