When an offense is in a slump, Felix Hernandez typically doesn't serve as the elixir. But a determined bunch of Boston hitters produced a dramatic uprising against Seattle's ultra-talented right-hander in a four-run eighth inning, paving the way for a satisfying 5-3 win over the Mariners on Monday night at Safeco Field.
It was close to midnight in New England when the resurgence occurred, but those who stayed awake saw Dustin Pedroia's two-out, ground-rule double score Julio Lugo to snap a 1-1 tie.
"He had great stuff, he always does," Pedroia said of Hernandez. "With him, you're just trying to get a pitch out over the plate to hit. He doesn't give many, so when you get them, you have to make sure you hit them. I was just trying to get a fastball. It didn't matter where it was. And I got one."
From there, the floodgates opened. After an intentional walk to David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez belted an RBI single to right. Mike Lowell drilled an infield single that third baseman Adrian Beltre made a diving stop on, but had no other play, bringing in another run. Jason Varitek walked with the bases loaded to force in the fourth run of the inning. At that point, Hernandez was finally removed.
On some nights, Hernandez's work over the first seven might have been enough to sink the Red Sox. But not on this night. Not the way Bartolo Colon was pitching.
Colon's second start was even more impressive than his first. The right-hander improved to 2-0 and lowered his ERA to 2.25 by scattering five hits and allowing just one run over seven innings. He walked one and struck out four.
"I thought his movement, his life on his fastball was good," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He got strong. That's been kind of Bartolo's thing as he's gone on in his career. As he gets into the game, he gets real strong, and I thought his ball was running back, not over the middle of the plate, but coming back for strikes. He made a lot of good, quality pitches with life."
With two on and two outs in the seventh and the game tied, Francona could have easily gone to rested setup man Hideki Okajima to face the great Ichiro Suzuki. But his decision to stick with Colon paid off, as Ichiro offered at the first pitch and hit a routine flyout to center.
"I feel good," Colon said through interpreter Luis Alicea. "I feel even better with the team giving me a chance. I was very happy. And to be in a situation with two guys on, to allow me to pitch to Ichiro was big."
Mastery in road games against the Mariners is nothing new to Colon, who is now 9-1 with a 2.09 ERA in his career at Safeco.
After enduring a three-game sweep in Oakland over the weekend, the Red Sox won their first road game since May 10. Meanwhile, the Mariners continued to flounder, losing their seventh game in a row.
"It was good," said Varitek. "I think the tone was set by a quality start. Again, it was against somebody that had no-hit type of stuff."
Hernandez, looking a lot like the guy who one-hit the Red Sox last season, retired the first 11 batters he faced. However, Ortiz put an emphatic end to that run by slamming a homer over the wall in center to make it 1-0, Red Sox.
It appeared as if Boston was going to have another run-scoring opportunity in the fifth.
Following a single by J.D. Drew, Varitek crushed a ball to center field that seemed to have RBI double written all over it. Ichiro had other plans, running into the wall and making a sensational catch.
"I thought the ball had a chance to go out," Varitek said. "Or a significant chance to go out. When I see him running, I'm like, 'What is he doing?' And then he makes one of the best catches I've seen."
Just as Hernandez was in top form for the Mariners, Colon was every bit as strong for the Red Sox. The big righty had a shutout after five innings.
Seattle got something started in the fifth, as Ichiro led off with a single and Jose Lopez drew a walk. Jose Vidro dropped down a sacrifice bunt, putting runners on second and third with one out. Raul Ibanez then did his job, getting the tying run home with a grounder to second.
It would stay that way until the eighth, when the Red Sox put together the inning that had been eluding them of late.
"It was satisfying to be able to shake hands here," Francona said. "We've had our share of frustrating losses, and we put together a good inning."
And it was an inning made all the more impressive by who it came against.
"He's just got phenomenal stuff," said Varitek. "He may have gotten a little tired. He got a lot of quick outs early. He's got probably some of the best stuff in Major League Baseball."
Varitek was speaking of Hernandez, but those same type of statements have been made about Colon over the years.
And considering that the Red Sox got him at a bargain-basement price when 29 other teams had a chance at him, the righty could develop into one of the better stories of the season.
"He was great," Pedroia said. "He was outstanding at attacking the strike zone all night. His tempo was great. It was great to play behind him."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.