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Red Sox go with Lackey in opener against Mariners

John Lackey has recorded 10 or more wins in each of his opening victory tonight at Safeco Field.

The Red Sox are in town for three games and are counting on Lackey to keep them supplanted in first place in the AL East. They own a slim one-game advantage over the despised New York Yankees for division bragging rights and hope Lackey can keep his unbeaten streak intact. He is 5-0 with a 3.58 earned run average over his last six starts and defeated the Yankees his last time out in a 10-4 victory on Saturday at Fenway Park.

Lackey permitted three runs, scattered six hits and struck out five over six innings to run his 2011 mark to 10-8 in 19 starts. He still has a lofty 6.14 earned run average, but appears back on track since a personal three-game losing streak from June 22-July 4. The righty and former Angels ace defeated Seattle at home on July 22 in a 7-4 victory, as he allowed one run over seven frames to improve to 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA in 29 starts in this matchup.

"You get behind and he steals a strike with an off-speed pitch," Seattle shortstop Brendan Ryan said of Lackey. "It appears he feels confident pitching behind because he can throw all his pitches for strikes, especially the off- speed stuff. That's where he got himself back into counts."

Boston had won four in a row and was aiming for a three-game sweep in Minnesota, but dropped a 5-2 decision on Wednesday at Target Field. Jon Lester was dealt the loss for giving up four runs and eight hits in 7 1/3 innings with five walks and four strikeouts. David Ortiz homered and Marco Scutaro drove in a run for the Red Sox, who have still won 14 of their last 21 games. Ortiz owns three homers and six RBI in his last six games for a Boston club that has gone deep a major league-high 75 times on the road this season.

Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is one home run shy of joining the 20/20 club for the season. He owns 19 homers and 31 stolen bases. The Red Sox are playing the fourth game in a stretch of 14 of 17 contests on the road, and sport the best road ledger in the majors at 35-22.

Seattle is back in the Emerald City for a six-game residency versus Boston and Toronto, and ended a three-game slide with Wednesday's 4-3 win at Texas in the finale of a three-game series against the defending AL champions.

Mike Carp finished 2-for-4 with a home run, two RBI and a pair of runs scored, while Casper Wells added two hits and an RBI for the Mariners, who had lost four of five games before squeezing out a win over the Rangers. Jason Vargas earned the win and was reached for three runs and six hits in seven innings. Jamey Wright tossed a scoreless eighth before Brandon League registered his 27th save in the ninth inning.

"We hit the ball well today, a lot of base hits, left some runners on, but we made some hard outs, too," said Mariners manager Eric Wedge. "I think if you look at the quality of our at-bats, they're much better than they were a couple of weeks ago."

Wedge opted to hold infielder Adam Kennedy out of the lineup with a sore left heel and fellow infielder Jack Wilson was scratched from the lineup prior to the game with what Wedge described as "physical exhaustion". Both players could be back in the lineup tonight.

The Mariners current roster has 11 rookies and starting pitcher Blake Beavan is one of them. The right-hander gets the call Friday hoping to secure his third straight winning performance. Beavan defeated Oakland on August 1, then delivered eight innings of one-run ball in a 5-1 win at the Angels last Saturday. He improved to 3-2 with a 2.83 ERA in six starts.

Beavan, a right-hander, lost to Boston in a 3-1 decision on July 23, when he gave up three runs and nine hits over 6 2/3 innings. Beavan is 2-1 with a 3.10 ERA in three starts at Safeco Field and is facing Boston for the first time.

Boston has won four of six meetings with Seattle this season and is 12-5 in the previous 17 matchups between the two ballclubs.