Pinch hitter Mitch Moreland connected for a three-run homer in the ninth inning and the World Series champion Boston Red Sox rallied for their first win of the season, beating the Seattle Mariners 7-6 on Friday night.
A day after losing their opener 12-4, Boston bounced back. The Mariners had started off 3-0.
It was 6-4 when Rafael Devers opened the ninth with a double off closer Hunter Strickland (0-1), moved to third on a passed ball and pinch hitter Blake Swihart was hit by a pitch.
Strickland got a huge out when Devers was nailed at the plate on Jackie Bradley Jr.’s groundball, but Moreland didn’t miss a 2-0 fastball in the middle of the plate and lined into over the right field wall.
Matt Barnes pitched the bottom of the ninth to close out the victory for his first save since 2017. The Red Sox have a different look in the bullpen this year after closer Craig Kimbrel became a free agent — he hasn’t yet signed with a new team.
Boston’s comeback ruined another fine effort by rookie Yusei Kikuchi, who pitched six solid innings and left in line for the victory. After pitching well last week in Japan, Kikuchi showed his new hometown fans the mix that made him a prized signing by Seattle in the offseason.
Kikuchi allowed two earned runs and scattered four hits, including homers by Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez, and struck out five.
But it was all for naught as Seattle’s biggest concern entering the season — its bullpen — failed to come through. The Mariners traded Edwin Diaz, who led the majors with 57 saves last year, to the New York Mets in a big deal during the winter.
Christian Vazquez’s home run in the eighth pulled Boston within 6-4 and the Red Sox missed a chance at more runs in the inning when Eduardo Nunez bounced into a 1-2-3 double play off Cody Gearrin to end the threat. Nunez stopped running to avoid being tagged by Gearrin, but the pause allowed Seattle to complete the inning-ending double play.
Seattle continued its slugging start to the season with three home runs off Boston starter Nathan Eovaldi, who lasted five innings and allowed six runs.
Mallex Smith hit his first career leadoff home run, Domingo Santana’s torrid start continued with his third homer and Omar Narvaez’s first hit of the season was a solo shot just fair down the right field line for Seattle. The Mariners have 12 home runs in four games, including eight in the first two against Boston.
Boston manager Alex Cora had little concern after a shaky debut from Chris Sale where the ace was knocked out after three innings and allowing seven runs. Cora said that Sale reported feeling a little off mechanically but was completely healthy. He understood the concern after seeing Sale’s velocity was down on opening day.
“We’ll work on it (these) next few days and we’ll be ready for the next one,” Cora said.
The Mariners added depth at catcher by acquiring Tom Murphy from San Francisco for minor league pitcher Jesus Ozoria. Murphy had been in spring training with Colorado before being released. He signed with the Giants, but was designated for assignment this week. Murphy appeared in 37 games last season with Colorado. He hit .226 with two home runs and 11 RBIs. Seattle manager Scott Servais said Murphy could get the start on Saturday with a left-hander on the mound.
Seattle optioned David Freitas, who started on opening day, to Triple-A Tacoma to clear the roster spot.
Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (13-5, 3.82 in 2018) gets the start after setting a career-high in wins and a career-low ERA last season.
Mariners: RHP Mike Leake (10-10, 4.36 in 2018) makes his first outing since pitching one of Seattle’s two exhibition games when the team was in Japan. It will be Leake’s seventh career start vs. Boston.