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BOS@SEA: Ibanez puts Mariners ahead with solo homer

SEATTLE -- Veteran left fielder Raul Ibanez continued his torrid first half with his 22nd home run of the season and Felix Hernandez took advantage of the Mariners' second-highest offensive production of the season as Seattle rolled to an 11-4 win over the Red Sox on Monday night at Safeco Field.

Ibanez went 2-for-5 with a pair of RBIs as he extended his hitting streak to 13 games, during which he's cranked out eight home runs and helped ignite a Mariners team that has won five of its last seven games in improving to 40-49.

The 41-year-old Ibanez is tied for fifth in the American League with 22 homers and leads the Mariners in RBIs with 51. He's the first player age 40 or older in Major League history to hit more than 20 home runs before the All-Star Game, with six more games remaining before the break.

"To be honest, I don't really think about numbers," Ibanez said. "I try to help the team win and try to be the best player I can be every day. At this point in my career, I prepare for every game like it's my last.

"You never know when that moment is going to come, but just try to enjoy it and soak it in and stay in the moment, and not think about tomorrow or the next at-bat, but just focus on that moment in the box and on the field. We have a great group of young guys and I'm having a lot of fun. They're keeping me young."

Ibanez is tied with Darrell Evans for the fourth-most home runs in a season by a player 41 or older, just seven behind record-holder Ted Williams, who hit 29 in 1960 at age 41.

"He's found almost the fountain of youth," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Twenty-two home runs, obviously it speaks to a lot of hard work and the way he keeps himself in shape. He's been a very good hitter for a long career and he's having another great year this year."

Ibanez's solo shot in the fifth off Jon Lester staked Seattle to a 3-2 advantage and he added a run-scoring single in a three-run sixth that gave Hernandez some welcome cushion.

"It was a cutter that got kind of out over the plate," Ibanez said. "I was trying not to do too much. Being 0-2 against a pitcher of that caliber is not the position you want to be in. So, I was in survival mode trying to put it in play and not do too much and I got it in the air to right field."

Hernandez, making his second-to-last start before the All-Star Game on July 16, allowed two runs and six hits over seven innings as he improved to 9-4 with a 2.69 ERA.

The Mariners ace is 4-0 with four no-decisions over his last eight starts and his ERA is second in the AL behind only teammate Hisashi Iwakuma, who starts on Tuesday in the second of the four-game series.

Even as Seattle's lead grew, Hernandez harkened back to three starts earlier when an 8-1 advantage in Anaheim slipped away in what turned out to be a frustrating 10-9 loss in one of his three straight no-decisions prior to Monday's win.

"It's about time, huh," he said. "The offense came today, Raul did the same thing he's been doing for like two months and we won the game. It feels pretty good. I know those guys [on offense] try hard all the time. When we scored the six runs, I just said, 'You've got to throw zeros.' You know what happened in Anaheim and that was not good."

Pitching with his familiar King's Court cheering section among the crowd of 21,830, Hernandez won for just the third time this year at home, where he's 3-2 with a 3.02 ERA in eight starts compared to 6-2 with 2.43 ERA in 11 road starts.

He'll line up for another home start on Saturday against the Angels in his final appearance before making his fourth All-Star trip, this time to New York's Citi Field.

While Hernandez has been plagued by a lack of run support over the years, that wasn't an issue on Monday. Seven of Seattle's 15 hits went for extra bases, including two doubles each by Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders.

"I feel like I'm seeing the ball well of late," Saunders said after going 2-for-4 with three RBIs to raise his average to .217. "What's in the past, you can't dwell on that. You have to move forward. It's a long year. It's been a tough year for me obviously so far, but I'm looking for a solid second half."

The Mariners were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position -- extending their team streak to 0-for-25 dating to Friday's game in Cincinnati -- before Smoak doubled down the third-base line to score Kendrys Morales with the game's first run in the fourth.

That hit seemed to open things up for the Mariners as Smoak later added another RBI double in a 3-for-4 night. Smoak is hitting .339 (19-for-56) with four doubles, four homers and nine RBIs in 17 games since coming off the disabled list, raising his season average to .267.

The Red Sox lost their third straight, but still own the AL's best record at 54-37.

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