Mariners walk off vs. Boston thanks to Cruz

Mariners walk off vs. Boston thanks to Cruz

SEATTLE -- Nelson Cruz continued his terrific start in Seattle with a walk-off single with two out in the bottom of the ninth Friday to lift the Mariners to a 2-1 victory over the Red Sox.

Cruz, who leads the American League with 15 home runs and a .358 batting average, had struck out three times in his first three at-bats before driving in Brad Miller from second base with a line drive to the left-center gap off Red Sox reliever Junichi Tazawa.

"This was a great win," said Cruz, who snapped Seattle's two-game losing streak with his second walk-off hit of the year. "The pitching has been really doing a good job. The bats have to wake up and do what we're supposed to do."

Manager John Farrell second-guessed himself after the game for electing to pitch to Cruz with first base open.

"Before you even ask a question, that's a terrible decision on my part," said Farrell. "I own that one. We had a base open. [We] saw Cruz's first three at-bats, he was chasing some offspeed [stuff] below the zone. He was 1-for-8 against Taz previously. Didn't work out. That's a terrible decision on my part."

Clay Buchholz was outstanding for eight innings for Boston, allowing just a lone run on Seth Smith's homer in the sixth in a three-hit, 11-strikeout performance. The veteran right-hander wound up with a hard-luck no-decision, leaving him 2-4 with a 4.93 ERA.

Mariners lefty J.A. Happ matched Buchholz in the Safeco Field pitchers' duel, allowing just one run and five hits in seven innings. Happ remains 3-1 with a 2.98 ERA in seven starts, with Boston's lone run coming on Xander Bogaerts' RBI triple in the second.

Happ's strong outing

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Going solo again: The Mariners had just one hit off Buchholz until Smith drove a 1-0 fastball into the right-center seats with two out in the sixth with a blast measured at 431 feet by Statcast™. It was Smith's third homer of the season and all have come with the bases empty. But that's not unusual on a Mariners team that has flown solo on 34 of its 44 long balls this season.

"He was really good," Smith said of the Red Sox right-hander. "I got one pitch to hit and was able to get the barrel to it."

Smith's solo shot

Buchholz overpowers Mariners: Buchholz was dominant from the outset in this one, save the one mistake -- a 93 mph heater -- that Smith deposited into the seats for a homer in the sixth. Even in that inning, Buchholz struck out the side. The righty notched a season high in innings and strikeouts while issuing zero walks for the first time in 2015.

"I don't think the two-seam fastball was all that good, but the cutter came in the middle innings, the changeup was good all night, I could throw the curveball for a strike, and I was able to keep them off balance," said Buchholz. More >

Buchholz dominates Mariners

Happ helps himself: Happ was outstanding again for the Mariners in a 103-pitch outing in which his only glitch was the second inning when he gave up a single to Shane Victorino and then Bogaerts' two-out triple. After Boston put runners on first and third with two outs in the fourth, he got himself out of that jam by catching Victorino off first with a pickoff move. When Victorino got into a rundown, shortstop Miller went across the diamond to keep Mike Napoli from running home, with Seattle eventually tagging him out for the 1-3-6-2-5 inning-ending putout.

"I just used a little different move, but it's a play we called, kind of a slide step," Happ said. "We got fortunate that he was going there." More >

Mariners get Napoli in rundown

Boston bats stay cold: While the pitching has gotten on track for the Red Sox in recent days, the bats have gone cold. Boston has scored an aggregate seven runs in the last four games.That's not the way the Red Sox want to be trending with Felix Hernandez looming Saturday.

"Well, we've been in a little bit of a challenge of late trying to put together some hits to score some runs," said Farrell. "Over the last four games, we've gone up against some good pitching in some good pitching ballparks. We've got to work to manufacture runs."

QUOTABLE
"No, he doesn't have to say anything. It's part of the game. It's baseball, you know what I mean? We had opportunities. If I hit a ball an inch over, not straight to shortstop, we score a run and we're probably still playing. That stuff happens." -- Dustin Pedroia, standing up for Farrell.

"I mean, it's the game, you know? You never know what's going to happen. If they didn't want to pitch to me, they'd walk me right away. I like the challenge. I want to be in that spot." -- Cruz on the Red Sox's decision to pitch to him in the ninth.

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Victorino, who had two hits Friday, has tormented the Mariners over the years. Lifetime against Seattle, Victorino is a .477 hitter (21-for-44) with seven runs, two doubles, a homer, six RBIs and 12 walks.

WHAT'S NEXT
Red Sox: Rick Porcello, arguably Boston's most consistent starter this season, takes the ball Saturday against the Mariners. The righty was dominant in his two career starts at Safeco Field, going 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA.

Mariners: Felix Hernandez, off to the first 6-0 start of his career, will be gunning for win No. 7 against the Red Sox in Saturday's 6:10 p.m. PT game. The King is 8-2 with a 3.06 ERA in 16 career starts against Boston and hasn't lost to the Red Sox since 2011 (4-0, 2.43 ERA in his last six meetings)..

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.