April 11th: Jose Lopez goes to his right to backhand a grounder up the middle by Mike Lowell.
I am not a superstitious person.
I step on cracks. When I was younger and not as freakishly tall as I am now, I'd deliberately walk under ladders. When I played baseball and hockey, I never had a lucky undershirt. I don't worry about jinxes. I pick up pennies from the ground, even if they're heads-down. I chase crickets out of the house.
For as long as I can remember, I've just always thought these kinds of things are silly. What's the point? Why would anyone put stock in this stuff? I believe but two things to be true about superstitions: they don't make a lick of difference, and they're a great way to make yourself neurotic. No, sir. They're just not my thing.
As a sports fan, it's liberating to be able to ignore all that senseless hokum. You're free to move around and say whatever you like during a game without having to worry about somehow changing the outcome. This way, not only can you be a little more relaxed, but you're also preemptively absolved of any blame for the result. If I watch something bad happen to one of my teams, I can rest easy with the knowledge that I can in no way be held even partly responsible.
This was my frame of mind as I sat there in grandstand section 12, row 1, seat 8, watching the Mariners take on the Sox in person thanks to the incredibly kind gesture of reader phil333. I was content to see Felix and Matsuzaka go head-to-head in front of a spirited crowd, knowing that modest cheering would be the extent of my influence over the game. All I wanted was to be entertained.
Through four and a half, the Mariners had a 3-0 lead, and the Sox didn't have a hit. So far, so good. Leading off the bottom of the fifth, JD Drew lined a sharp grounder back up the middle, but Jose Lopez made a spectacular diving stop to keep the ball in the infield and throw Drew out at first. That was something else. Between this and the backpedaling catch he'd made in the first, Lopez clearly came to play.
Up next was Mike Lowell. Down two strikes, he too hit a grounder up the middle. Still catching his breath, Lopez set off in a dead sprint, fielded the ball on his backhand behind second base, turned, and made a strong off-balance throw to first to get Lowell by several steps. Absolutely phenomenal. This was the kind of play that made our jaws hit the ground when Yuni pulled them off as a rookie back in 2005. What were the Red Sox supposed to do? How could they possibly entertain the notion of winning this game if Jose Lopez wasn't going to let them get any hits?
While Lowell walked back to the dugout muttering under his breath, I looked at the scoreboard, looked at the ground, and looked at Phil.
Wait a second.
R H E
3 6 0
0 0 1
As Jason Varitek came to the plate with two down and none on, the cold wooden seat started to give me some pain in my lower back. But I wasn't about to change the way I was sitting.