SEATTLE (AP) _ The Boston Red Sox have the best record in baseball and need to get healthy to stay there.
The Sox lost their third straight game Monday night _ matching their season high _ in an 11-4 defeat to the Seattle Mariners.
Felix Hernandez (9-4) pitched seven strong innings, allowing two runs and six hits, and Raul Ibanez hit his 22nd home run as part of the Mariners’ 15-hit attack.
Jon Lester (8-5) allowed nine hits and five runs in five-plus innings for the Red Sox, who at 54-37 have the best record in the majors and lead the AL East by 31/2 games. But this is a team Boston manager John Farrell said he has to piece together.
“We’re a little beat up right now,” Farrell said. “We’re little short defensively with the position players _ with the day-to-day managing we’re doing with our physical ailments. But we are in this ballgame in the middle innings and unfortunately it got away from us late.”
The Sox were without Jacoby Ellsbury (left wrist) and Shane Victorino (left hamstring) Monday. Daniel Nava made his first big-league appearance in center field.
The team also received the news that LHP Andrew Miller is expected to have surgery for a damaged left foot ligament and likely will be out for the season.
Ibanez’s home run – on a 0-2 pitch from Lester – broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth. It was the 41-year-old’s seventh go-ahead home run this season and extended his hitting streak to 13 games.
“At some point last year (with the Yankees), I started acting like it was my last game,” said Ibanez, who turned 41 on June 2. “I asked myself the questions, `How would I act, what would I think about, how would I prepare?’ I wanted to enjoy it as much as I could.
“I’m 41. You can’t play this game forever. I used that approach. Hopefully, I can share that approach with the younger guys, telling them, `hey, time goes by really fast. Enjoy this.’ `’
Ibanez needs eight home runs to pass Ted Williams for the most home runs by a 41-year-old. Williams hit 29 at age 41 in 1960 in his final season with the Red Sox.
“He’s found _ almost _ the fountain of youth,” Farrell said. “He’s at 22 home runs tonight. Obviously, it speaks to a lot of hard work.”
It was the Mariners who made Lester work hard, taking more pitches than usual.
“His curve was sharp and had some good movement,” catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “They took a lot of good pitches. They were good changeups that normally get swings and they didn’t swing and a lot of cutters they fouled off. They battled. He’s not happy with it and neither am I.”
Lester threw 112 pitches, including 39 pitches in the fourth inning alone.
“The strike zone was fine,” Lester said. “Sometimes you feel like you throw the ball pretty well and they do a better job of fighting pitches off.
“I felt like I threw a lot of good pitches tonight, maybe a handful of balls that found the center of the plate. They did a better job of fouling those off to get to those pitches. I feel like I threw the ball better than the line score says.”
Justin Smoak had three hits for the Mariners, including two doubles, and drove in a pair. Michael Saunders had two doubles and three RBI.
Mike Napoli and Saltalamacchia each had RBI doubles in the eighth.
Entering the game, the Mariners had just two hits in their previous 32 at-bats with runners in scoring position, and were on an 0-for-19 run. After three innings, the run had grown to 0 for 25.
Kendrys Morales opened the fourth with a hard single to left. Kyle Seager followed with a single that just ticked off second baseman Dustin Pedroia’s glove. The ball trickled into right field, allowing Morales to reach third.
With one out, Smoak finally broke the stretch of futility with double just inside the third-base bag. Morales scored and Seager advanced to third. Mike Zunino walked to load the bases and Saunders walked to drive in Seager.
Boston responded in the top of the fifth with a pair of runs. Nava had a RBI single and Brock Holt raced home from third on a wild pitch to make it 2-2.
Ibanez’s leadoff home run in the fifth gave the Mariners the lead for good. He has eight home runs in his last 13 games and the Mariners have hit at least one home run in 16 straight games.
“I felt I executed that pitch fairly well, enough to not have that result,” Lester said of the cutter to Ibanez. “Obviously, he was sitting on it. It’s frustrating because it is 0-2, but it was the pitch I wanted to go to.”
Ibanez has 203 doubles and 149 home runs as a Mariner. He is one home run from joining Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner and Alvin Davis as the only Mariners with at least 200 doubles and 150 home runs.
NOTES: With RHP Jeremy Bonderman designated for assignment Monday, the Mariners need a starter Thursday. “We’ll be pulling someone up for that,” Manager Eric Wedge said. It could be RHP Erasmo Ramirez, coming back from a triceps strain, or RHP Brandon Maurer, who began the year with the big club. . Wedge said Tom Wilhelmsen has worked his way back into the closer role after a three-week absence for inconsistency. . The Red Sox were without Jacoby Ellsbury (left wrist) and Shane Victorino (left hamstring), so manager John Farrell said he had to go with a “makeshift” lineup. Ellsbury is working on a season-high 17-game hit streak and has a major league-high 36 steals. . LHP Andrew Miller is expected to have surgery for a damaged left foot ligament and likely will be out for the season.