But then came the fourth.
Franklin Gutierrez led off with an infield single and Kyle Seager was barely grazed by an inside pitch to put two runners aboard. John Jaso and Justin Smoak followed with consecutive RBI singles, and the Mariners quickly took a 2-1 lead.
Buchholz finally recorded the first out of the inning when he induced a shallow fly out to center, but Jacoby Ellsbury was charged with an error when his throw home skidded away from catcher Ryan Lavarnway and allowed Jaso to score from third.
"Ryan knows what to do with that ball," manager Bobby Valentine said. "Need to come up and smother and get it on a hop, or smother it if you're going to stand there."
"I wish they would have given me that error, because Jacoby's trying to get the guy out," Lavarnway said. "He did exactly what he should have, and I played it into an in-between hop and I needed to go out and smother that ball and absolutely need to keep it in front of me."
Miguel Olivo followed with a single to set up the final act of what was a fourth inning of self-destruction. Carlos Peguero hit a grounder to shortstop Jose Iglesias for what could have been an inning-ending double play, but the youngster bobbled the ball and then delivered a late throw to first. Smoak scored from third on the play to put the Mariners up, 4-1.
"You have to string some good at-bats together and they gave us a few extra opportunities, too," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "I thought we took advantage of it, and that's what you've got to do. We had a lot of hustle. Jaso goes first-to-third. Olivo's hustle into second base altered that play, just because of how quick he got to second. It never hurts when you're forcing the defense like that."
"They didn't hit the ball hard. Clay deserved better than we allowed to happen," Lavarnway said. "He deserved better than that."
The Red Sox had taken the lead right off the bat, their first since they briefly went ahead of the Angels in an Aug. 29 loss. Dustin Pedroia started the two-out rally with a ground-rule double to left-center for his 1,000th career hit -- he also extended his hitting streak to 14 games -- and scored when Cody Ross singled to right.
Despite the inability to hold the lead, Buchholz still pitched a decent ballgame. In his 100th career start, Buchholz gave up six hits -- just two outside of the fourth -- and struck out eight in seven innings, while only three of the four runs were earned.
"I felt fine. As the game went on, I felt better," Buchholz said. "Throwing the pitches in [the fourth] inning sort of made my pitch count jump up a little bit, but in the sixth and seventh inning I felt as good or better than I did at the beginning of the game."
Even with the improved pitching -- it was the first time since Thursday a starter has lasted more than 3 2/3 innings -- the defense and hitting didn't show up to support Buchholz. Now the Red Sox are left with two more games on the road trip to figure things out before returning home.
"I think the guys are very mentally and physically tired," Valentine said. "They need the night off here. Come back, will feel like two nights. We got to kick it in, we got to have better at-bats. Dustin's really doing great and everybody else [has got to] follow suit."