SEATTLE -- To say the 41,326 at Safeco Field enjoyed some drama would be an understatement.
Boston starter Josh Beckett, sporting a 2.17 ERA entering Saturday, was plastered in a five-run first inning. But then the Red Sox came storming back with four of their own runs off Seattle ace Felix Hernandez in the sixth.
In between all that, skipper Terry Francona was ejected in the fourth after disputing what ended up being a crucial play at the plate.
When it was all said and done, the five first-inning runs were enough for the Mariners, who held on for the 5-4 win.
But that wasn't before some serious fireworks.
The game's biggest play came during the fourth inning. After Beckett put Boston in a 5-0 hole early, the Red Sox threatened to get on the board in an intense fourth inning, one that ended up pivotal.
Boston had runners on the corners, with Jacoby Ellsbury at third and one out. Dustin Pedroia hit a high fly ball to right field near the foul line, as Ichiro Suzuki collected himself and prepared to throw home.
"I knew the throw had to be on the money for him to get me," Ellsbury said. "With Ichiro's history, I know he has a good arm. As a baserunner, when the ball is hit close to the line like that, you can see the play developing. When it was in the air, I knew it was going to be close."
Ellsbury took off from third base and Ichiro threw an absolute laser-beam one-hopper straight into the glove of catcher Josh Bard. The throw clearly beat Ellsbury, who collided with Bard, but the Boston center fielder was called safe after it appeared Bard did not have the ball in his glove.
With Hernandez and Seattle manager Eric Wedge fuming at home-plate umpire Mark Ripperger, Bard lay on the ground shaken up. Less than 30 seconds later, the umpires reversed the call after it was evident that Bard had the ball in his bare hand during the collision.
"I think everybody could see the guy was out," Bard said. "Obviously, it was a big run. But credit goes to Ich. He made a great throw and gave me a good, long hop to work with."
"It's one of those calls that is easy to overturn if the other umpires can tell if he held on to the ball," Ellsbury said.
The reversal sent Francona off. The eighth-year skipper was ejected for the fourth time this season and was frustrated afterward that he didn't get an explanation from Ripperger himself.
"I just didn't understand why the home-plate umpire didn't explain it to me. It was his call," Francona said. "They are so protective of the young guys. They have the ability to make a call and then don't explain it to me.
" ... It's very unusual for them to reverse a call, but whatever. I told them I was going to get thrown out before he was done with the explanation. That just happens. Move on."
But as Francona watched the rest of the game from the clubhouse, his team would not go down easily.
Ellsbury made sure to score without discussion in the sixth inning, when he launched a two-run shot -- his 20th long ball this season -- off Hernandez to right field that cut Seattle's lead to 5-2. That made the 27-year-old the sixth Red Sox player with 20 homers and 20 stolen bases in a season and the first since Nomar Garciaparra in 1997.
Just as Beckett fell apart in the first, Hernandez began to do the same in the sixth. After Ellsbury's shot, the Seattle righty allowed Adrian Gonzalez to reach on a bunt single and Pedroia followed with his own two-run blast -- his 16th -- to right field that cut the Mariners' lead to 5-4 and made Red Sox Nation distinctly audible at Safeco Field.
"We know we can do that as a team," said Ellsbury, who finished 2-for-3 with a run. "That's what keeps us pushing. We never know when that big inning is going to be."
After giving up no runs and two infield singles through five innings, Hernandez gave up four runs, three singles, two home runs and one triple in the sixth. But that was all the damage Boston would do, as the Seattle bullpen held on to help Hernandez improve to 11-10.
Things would have been much different had it not been for Beckett's ugly first inning. The most runs the righty had given up all year were five at Philadelphia in late June. In the first frame alone, he matched that total Saturday against a Seattle team averaging a league-worst 3.33 runs per game.
It started immediately with Beckett's first pitch, as Ichiro lined his second homer of the year to right field and gave Seattle an early 1-0 advantage.
Three batters later, Mike Carp extended his hitting streak to 13 with a single up the middle that scored two more and made it 3-0 Seattle. Beckett finally retired Wily Mo Pena -- the fifth batter -- for his first out, but minutes later, Casper Wells launched a two-run homer to left-center that blew open the game as the Mariners led, 5-0, after one. Beckett threw 34 pitches and gave up five runs and five hits in the first frame.
"I just left pitches up," Beckett said afterward. "They got hit."
After that ugly first inning, Beckett settled down and gave up three hits over the next four innings. He ended up going five innings, giving up five runs off eight hits while striking out six. The 31-year-old fell to 9-5 and his ERA moved from 2.17 to 2.40. He hasn't won since July 23.
Matt Albers pitched 1 2/3 innings of scoreless ball in relief. Mike Aviles, filling in for an injured Kevin Youkilis, finished 2-for-3.
Taylor Soper is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.