for this game

Red Sox best Hernandez, M's drop 13th straight

Jul 23, 2011 - 5:03 AM Boston, MA (Sports Network) - Felix Hernandez usually holds his royal court in Seattle, but the Cy Young Award winner never before had a problem extending his reign to Fenway Park.

That changed on Friday night when the Red Sox showed Hernandez why they are the kings of the American League, dealing the ace his first career loss in Boston with a 7-4 victory to open a three-game series while also giving Seattle its longest losing streak in nearly 19 years.

The AL-leading Red Sox had previously struggled versus Hernandez, who came into the game 3-0 with a 1.49 earned run average in five starts at Fenway Park. That previous domination, which included a one-hit complete game in the right-hander's first-ever start in Boston back in 2007, did not extended into Friday's meeting, with Hernandez (8-9) getting battered for six runs on 11 hits and four walks in 6 1/3 innings.

Dustin Pedroia reached base in all four of his plate appearances against Hernandez, posting three hits and a walk. He scored twice in the game and extended his career-best hitting streak to 19 straight contests. Jacoby Ellsbury homered in the third inning, his third in two games and fifth in the past seven contests, while Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez both drove in two runs.

John Lackey (8-8) settled down after an ominous first inning to pitch seven frames of one-run ball, working around eight hits to win his third straight start. His effort gave Terry Francona his 999th career managerial win, leaving him one shy of becoming the 57th skipper to reach the 1,000-victory mark.

"I thought he was tremendous," Francona said of Lackey. "He gives up the first-inning run and then settled down, threw strikes and even the hits he gave up, he was ahead in the count for the most part. He really pitched, and he needed to because with Felix on the mound."

Boston's 15th victory in 18 games gave the club 60 victories over its first 97 games. That is the fastest the Red Sox have reached the mark since doing so in 95 contests back in 1979 and it helped them maintain a two-game edge over the Yankees for first place in the AL East.

Seattle, meanwhile, dropped its 13th straight outing for the first time since a club-record 14-game slide from September 2-18, 1992. Mike Carp hit a late three-run homer, but it wasn't enough to get the Mariners out of the hole Hernandez created.

Boston threatened to break the game open in the fifth inning as Gonzalez battled through a nine-pitch at-bat to draw a walk and load the bases with one out. But with Hernandez on the ropes, the Seattle ace got Youkilis to hit into an inning-ending double play.

Boston hit into four double plays in the game, but avoided the momentum killer in the seventh inning to chase Hernandez from the game.

With Hernandez's pitch count climbing, he yielded singles to Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ellsbury around a Marco Scutaro flyout before walking Pedroia. That brought Gonzalez to the plate and he came through with a single up the middle to plate a pair of runs and move Pedroia to third.

Despite the final score, Pedroia felt the Red Sox were fortunate to get what they got against Hernandez.

"We found some holes. It's not like we were lighting the place up," Pedroia said. "He's got great stuff. We got a couple of ground balls that found some holes and got a big hit and that's basically it. That's how you beat a pitcher like that."

Seattle manager Eric Wedge then pulled his ace in favor of Jeff Gray, but the right-hander yielded a double to Youkilis on his second pitch. Pedroia scored easily on the hit to left and Carps' throw in from the outfield hit off Gonzalez as he slid into third base. Gonzalez was able to race home on the error, with Youkilis moving to third.

David Ortiz followed with a run-scoring single to center, putting the Red Sox ahead 7-1.

Hernandez fell to 0-3 over his last five starts and has yielded five home runs in that span. He had given up just seven homers in 17 starts before his winless drought.

Lackey, meanwhile, retired six of the final seven batters he faced before giving way to Franklin Morales in the eighth inning. The reliever made things interesting, giving up a three-run homer to Carp before exiting following a double by Jack Cust.

Carp's homer was the second of his career and first since September 16, 2009.

Daniel Bard came on in relief and got Greg Halman to fly out to right, extending his scoreless-innings streak to 23 dating back to May 27. Jonathan Papelbon then pitched a perfect ninth for his 22nd save of the season.

Seattle came into the game having lost 16 of 20 while hitting just .208 over their losing streak. The club tried to get off to a fast start in the hope of reversing its luck, with Ichiro Suzuki stealing second and third base following a game-opening single.

After swiping his 26th bag of the season, he came around to score on Dustin Ackley's single to left.

Seattle threatened for more, putting runners on the corners with two outs, but Lackey struck out Justin Smoak swinging and Boston tied the game on Youkilis' run-scoring single to left in the bottom of the frame.

"We didn't do a good job in two-out, RBI situations," said Wedge. "We have to finish those innings off. You know, one hit one or two different times with two outs over the course of the ballgame and it's a different game."

The Red Sox went ahead by a run in the third frame on Ellsbury's solo homer. Usually known of his wheels, Ellsbury launched a sinker from Hernandez over the wall in right field for his 16th homer of the season.

"The biggest thing when you're feeling good at the plate, you just want to get a pitch you know you can drive," said Ellsbury, whose previous career high for homers in a season was nine set in 2008. "You can't miss it. Fortunately, tonight I got a pitch he left over the place and put a good piece of wood on it."

Game Notes

Pedroia has reached base in a career-high 31 straight games, the longest such run by a Red Sox second baseman since Jerry Remy did so in 37 contests in a row from April 20-June 1, 1979...Bard's scoreless-innings streak is the longest by a Red Sox in a single season since Calvin Schiraldi also had a run of 23 straight innings on July 20-August 17, 1986...Lackey won his 14th career game versus the Mariners and avenged a 2-0 loss to them at home on April 30. He threw six innings of two-run ball in that defeat...Every Boston starter had a hit...Ichiro, Cust and Miguel Olivo all ended with two hits...Carp also drove in his first three runs of the season...Francona can become the eighth active manager to reach 1,000 wins when Josh Beckett takes the hill in the second game of this series opposite Blake Beavan. Francona has 714 career wins with Boston after recording 285 with Philadelphia from 1997-2000.