BOSTON — It may have been morning, thought to be only the second a.m. start in Mariners history, but the Seattle club looked up for it.
Like early birds catching the worm, they were one out from closing out a 6-5 win here ...
... when the worm turned.
The Boston Red Sox overcame a Mariners lead for the fifth and final time as Mark Loretta smashed an Eddie Guardado fastball into the seats above the Green Monster for a walk-off home run that ended the game at 7-6, Seattle's series at 1-3 and Seattle's trip at 3-4.
"It was still a good trip," said manager Mike Hargrove, who saw a solid day of managing go out with Guardado's last pitch.
"I couldn't think of four tougher clubs to start a season against than we've had, and we've done all right," Hargrove said of a 6-8 start against the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics, Cleveland Indians and the Red Sox. "With a break here or there, we might have won all four here instead of losing three."
It would have ended a very good trip if Kevin Youkilis' two-out ground ball up the middle in the ninth inning had been a tad closer to second baseman Jose Lopez, who took it with a dive to his right but was just late on his throw to first base.
Winning pitcher: Mike Timlin (1-0)
Losing pitcher: Eddie Guardado (0-1)
Today: Texas at Seattle, 7:05 p.m., Ch. 11/KOMO 1000 AM
M's Felix Hernandez (0-1)
vs. John Koronka (1-1)
"You can't hear the runner, but you know I was hoping the throw would be quick enough to beat him," said first baseman Richie Sexson. "It didn't work out. He was just safe."
Lopez said he'll see that play for a long time in his mind.
"I think we all will," he added. "It was just too far up the middle for me to get it quicker and throw. Just a bit too far."
Willie Bloomquist said 6 inches at both ends of that play and the game is over.
"It was just far enough for Lopey [Lopez] to have to go full extension, so he couldn't gather himself quicker," Bloomquist said. "Because of that, Youkilis was safe by half a step at first. Six inches safe, that's tough."
Like so many Fenway Park games, this was one of obvious long balls: two by David Ortiz in addition to Loretta's capper and one by the Mariners' Carl Everett off the Pesky Pole in right field.
But it was also a midday of subtleties, especially after Seattle starter Gil Meche lost his third lead to Ortiz's homer in the sixth.
In the seventh inning, Seattle took advantage of a break when Bloomquist's leadoff liner went off shortstop Alex Cora's glove. Bunted to second base, Bloomquist swiped third and scored on Ichiro's infield out for a 5-4 lead.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, with two outs and Trot Nixon on second base, right-handed reliever J.J. Putz went after tough switch-hitter Jason Varitek with right-handed hitter Mike Lowell on deck. Varitek singled to tie it 5-5.
"There are two schools of thought on that: One, work around him; the other, don't put the potential lead run on base," Hargrove said. "I wouldn't have complained if he'd walked there."
In the ninth inning, the Sox defense prevented a big inning, with Manny Ramirez making a good running catch on Everett and Loretta making a sprawling play on Roberto Petagine's hard grounder with the infield in.
The ball handcuffed Loretta at second base, and Adrian Beltre, who had singled and moved to third on Bloomquist's single, scored what looked to be the winning run.
"We took advantage of the opportunities we got," Hargrove said of an offense that scored three runs with two outs and three on hits that produced second outs. "They just hit three balls longer than we did."
They were Boston's first three of the series, and none stung more than the very last, which came after Guardado had fanned Wily Mo Pena and Dustan Mohr to open the inning and after Youkilis had hustled to beat Lopez's great effort for the 27th out.
Catcher Kenji Johjima wanted to take the blame for the final pitch. "I feel responsible," he said.
Guardado wasn't sharing any fault: "I'm the one who didn't do my job. I'm the one who fell behind 2-0 when a hitter like Loretta is going to make contact."
He was forced to make a better pitch than he might otherwise. With Ortiz on deck, instead of working the outer half of the plate as usual, he had to be more certain of a strike.
"But the ball obviously was not where I wanted it to be," Guardado said of the fastball that wound up down the middle. "The last thing you want to do is give up a walk-off home run. But I didn't get it done. It comes with the territory, but it hurts. My teammates did their jobs, and I let them down."
But Bloomquist saw more from this tough trip than a last-pitch loss.
"One thing comes out of this," he said. "We're a better team than last year, maybe much better. We've got some guys who haven't hit their stride yet, and we're right there. We're going to be all right."
Bob Finnigan: 206-464-8276 or firstname.lastname@example.org