But that hot home stretch finally ended Friday night, as the Mariners came into Fenway Park and stifled the Red Sox, 8-0, behind the electric right arm of Felix Hernandez.
It's tough enough to face Hernandez at full strength. The Red Sox did it on a night they were without the superstar slugging tandem of David Ortiz (left wrist, disabled list) and Manny Ramirez (right hamstring, day-to-day), not to mention speedy leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury (left wrist strain, might return this weekend).
Hernandez dazzled over six shutout innings, walking three and striking out five. In two career starts at Fenway, Hernandez is 2-0 and hasn't allowed a run in 15 innings.
"We dug ourselves a hole against the wrong guy," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He's got great stuff. He threw some real good offspeed pitches. The fastball is obvious. [He] kept us off-balance with the offspeed."
The loss snapped Boston's 13-game home winning streak. Coming off a game in which the Red Sox fought both the opponent (the Rays) and amongst themselves (Kevin Youkilis and Ramirez were involved in a dugout spat), the home team looked a little flat in this one.
"We were flat tonight," Francona said. "I think some of that is making right turns -- them scoring a bunch of runs and us not having a lot of success at the plate. We played a flat game tonight, I agree with that. I don't know if it's because of last night. Some of it has to do with the other guy on the mound."
Bartolo Colon, who won his first three starts for the Sox, couldn't keep pace with Hernandez. The righty allowed eight hits and six runs -- three of which were earned -- over five innings.
The Mariners didn't waste any time rallying against Colon, and they got some help along the way. With two on and one out in the first, Adrian Beltre hit a grounder back to Colon, and the pitcher, trying to get the force at second, threw wildly into center field. That brought home a run. Jose Vidro followed by grounding another one to the mound, and this time, Colon took the sure out at first, and another run crossed the plate to make it 2-0.
"We pretty much gave them a lead," said Red Sox designated hitter Sean Casey. "When you give great pitchers a lead, they can do a little bit more -- take a few more chances, make pitches when he needs to, and he did that tonight."
While the Red Sox couldn't solve Hernandez, the Mariners continued to add on. Ichiro Suzuki reached to start the third on a throwing error by Mike Lowell. After a single to left by Jose Lopez, Colon, leery of Ichiro's speed, made a wild pickoff throw to second. His second error on the night allowed Ichiro to reach third. Beltre quickly brought home another run on a sacrifice fly to left.
"I felt fine," Colon said through interpreter Ed Romero. "I thought I had some pretty good stuff. The errors were pretty much the problem. That's really what got me out of the game. It is strange for me not only to make the error, but that many in one game. However, it's part of the game. You move on, and hopefully the next game, it doesn't happen."
Colon simply couldn't get into any type of rhythm. The Mariners again rallied in the fourth, getting a two-run single from Suzuki to make it 5-0. Richie Sexson made it a six-run lead with an RBI single in the fifth.
It was far too big a hill to climb against a pitcher the caliber of Hernandez, who is 4-5 despite an impressive 3.07 ERA.
"He was throwing two or three pitches for strikes," said Sox left fielder Brandon Moss. "Anytime you get a guy like that, it's going to be tough. But you just have to battle with him and hopefully get some good at-bats off him."
Shortly before the game, the Red Sox were informed of the seven-game suspension of Coco Crisp and a three-gamer for Casey, both of which were appealed. Lefty Jon Lester began serving his five-game suspension.
"It did seem like a busy day," Francona said. "A lot of things happened before the game. We needed -- myself included -- to deal with it better. When the game starts, that's what we come for. That's why we play, regardless of what happens during the day."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less