SEATTLE (AP) — The Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox look like two teams headed in opposite directions.
Kevin Millwood pitched six stingy innings to win for the first time in 5½ weeks and Seattle beat the staggering Red Sox 2-1 Wednesday night, handing Boston its eighth defeat in nine games.
The last-place Mariners (67-71) won for the 11th time in 14 home games and matched their win total from last year with 24 games remaining. That is progress for a team that’s had two consecutive losing seasons and hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2001.
“It should mean something to them,” second-year Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. “These guys have worked hard to get better and they are better. And they’re going to keep getting better.”
Dustin Ackley hit a two-run single in the fourth to back Millwood (5-12), who allowed four hits and one run in his first victory since July 28. The right-hander had gone 1-8 since May 21.
Millwood walked three and struck out three. Tom Wilhelmsen worked the ninth for his 24th save in 27 opportunities.
Boston, one of baseball’s top teams for a decade, went 1-8 on a miserable road trip for the club’s worst West Coast swing since a 1-8 debacle in September 1989.
“This was not a good road trip, obviously,” said embattled manager Bobby Valentine, whose fourth-place team is 10-24 since Aug. 1. “One of the worst I’ve ever experienced.”
Eric Thames opened the fourth with a bloop single to left. Mike Carp walked and Casper Wells singled through the left side, loading the bases with nobody out.
“The walk hurt a little,” Valentine said. “The base hit by Casper could have been at somebody but it was right in the hole.”
After Brendan Ryan popped out, Ackley ripped Aaron Cook’s fastball up the middle.
“That one just kind of stayed up a little bit,” Ackley said.
Cook (3-9) gave up seven hits in six innings. He walked three and struck out five.
The last time Cook faced the Mariners on June 29 he threw 88 pitches in a two-hit shutout for his first complete game in more than three years. Since then, he is 1-8. His last victory was Aug. 6.
The Red Sox threatened in the fourth with two outs. Cody Ross, who had three hits, and James Loney reached on singles and Jarrod Saltalamacchia walked. Ryan Lavarnway bounced out to third to end the inning.
Boston finally pushed a run across in the sixth. Jacoby Ellsbury reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second and scored on Loney’s double into the right-field corner.
Seattle’s opponents have scored one run or less in 33 games this season, trailing only the New York Mets (34) for the major league lead. The franchise record is 37 set in 2001.
“It’s nice where we’re at right now after having a tough first half, coming back strong in the second half and putting it together a little bit,” Ackley said. “It’s exciting for the rest of the year and exciting going into next year.
“We’ve made improvements over earlier this year. We’re turned the page as far as our hitting standpoint, getting some big hits in big situations.”
That’s certainly true of Ackley, who is 6 for 6 with the bases loaded and less than two outs. Overall this year he is 7 of 11 and has 12 RBIs with the bags full.
“I’m surprised,” Ackley said. “The way my year’s been going I didn’t expect to have those kind of numbers. I wish I had more than six at-bats in that situation.”
NOTES: Valentine said when Triple-A Pawtucket finishes its season, the Red Sox might call up “maybe one or two” more players. “I know (GM) Ben (Cherington) is looking around as to who we might add to the roster,” the manager said. Valentine would like to have at least one more outfielder. … OF Ryan Kalish intends to resolve his lingering shoulder issues during the offseason. “He’s really concerned with something being done properly,” Valentine said. “I don’t think it’s surgery.” … Dustin Pedroia was hitless in three at-bats, ending his season-high 15-game hitting streak. … Mariners OF Michael Saunders (hamstring), who has missed 10 of the last 11 games, and OF Franklin Gutierrez (groin) should both be available to play Friday, according to Wedge. … The Mariners have only three games remaining against a team with a losing record (Toronto).
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.