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Say goodbye to first place. Again.

As far as losses go, this one doesn't feel so bad. At least it didn't until I flashed back to the bottom of the first and remembered how the Red Sox were handed a run by first base umpire Rick Reed that shouldn't have counted. That one run, of course, ended up being the difference in the game, and just thinking about it feels like a kick in the gut. I guess it probably doesn't seem as bad for those of you who think the Mariners would've lost it in the ninth anyway, since enduring pessimism works as an efficient buffer against depression and disappointment, but for the other five or six of us, it's tough to stomach. As far as I'm concerned, the only acceptable way to lose to Boston is having David Ortiz and/or Manny Ramirez crap all over your pitching staff, so when that doesn't happen, I kind of expect a good result. Not the case today.

To the chart:

Biggest Contribution: Jarrod Washburn, +13.1%
Biggest Suckfest: Adrian Beltre, -31.7%
Most Important Hit: Ibanez triple, +10.1%
Most Important Pitch: Varitek DP, +9.5%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +22.9%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -89.7%

(What is this?)

Number of runs the Mariners would've scored through the first three games of this series were the Red Sox capable of playing decent defense: 1. One on Friday, none yesterday, and none today. Go back to the third of the third inning:

-Ichiro leads off with a groundball off the glove of Mark Loretta and makes it to first.
-Jose Lopez follows with a drive into right that should've put men on first and second with nobody out, but Wily Mo Pena takes a terrible route to the ball, lets it bounce behind him, and doesn't return the ball to the infield until a run has scored and Lopez is standing on third.
-Raul Ibanez bloops an RBI single into shallow left as none of Manny Ramirez, Alex Gonzalez, or Dustan Mohr decide to take charge. The ball spent about fifteen minutes in the air and dropped roughly five or six feet behind Gonzalez's head.
-Richie Sexson is retired, and then Raul Ibanez is caught attempting some sort of godawful delayed steal of second base.

There are two runs that never should've scored. Pena's gaffe was enough to cause the fans to give him a mock cheer when he properly fielded a single a few innings later, so it's not like I'm the only one picking on him, either. In two nights he has singlehandedly cost the Sox three or four runs, which is one hell of an instant return (albeit not the kind Epstein had in mind when he dealt away Bronson Arroyo). If he were the everyday starter in right field I'd be tempted to call him the reason why Boston won't win that division, but instead I'll have to go with something else for the time being until Trot Nixon is declared out for the season again, like their weak infield or thin rotation. Man, Pena sucks.

With the wind blowing out last night, Rene Rivera knocked two pop-ups off the Green Monster for doubles. In the first inning today, Jose Lopez hit the ball harder into left field than Rivera did either time, but with the wind blowing strongly in the opposite direction, the ball dropped into Ramirez's glove just short of the wall where a day before it would've left the yard. I don't have anything to say about that, other than it's funny the way these things work out sometimes. It's like Rivera stole four total bases that really should've been added to Lopez's SLG.

New policy: any time Jarrod Washburn strikes out five or more batters while avoiding the home run and recording twice as many outs on the ground as he does in the air, I will not allow myself to say a word about his performance in fear of taking anything away from what he did. The policy is hereby official as of this writing. (Note that I will break my own rules approximately "whenever I feel like it.")

We can talk about how much we love his stats, his goatee, or his older brother until we're blue in the face, but with George Sherrill, chatting about how good we think he is really doesn't prepare anyone for the experience of actually watching him pitch. The guy is just murder against even the toughest left-handed hitters in baseball, and it's almost all because of that big breaking ball that drops about twenty feet before it reaches the catcher. Guys go up there looking for the fastball, but Sherrill's frequently able to spot it well enough to get ahead in the count and set up the big hook, which always seems to come as a surprise to the batter. There's a reason lefties are 19-100 against Sherrill with two walks and 34 punchouts. David Ortiz, Travis Hafner, Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui, Carlos Delgado, and Hank Blalock are a combined 0-15. Hell, the guy whose done the most damage against Sherrill is on the same team right now (Matt Lawton, 3-4 with two homers). George Sherrill is really, really good, and with the way he's being used right now, I think Mike Hargrove is beginning to notice.

Does any team in baseball have more players who look like total jerks than the Red Sox? It's like half the roster makes up the New England branch of the Bandidos, and Mike Timlin is their fearless dirtbag leader.

I can't tell you the specific reason for Ichiro's current slump, but what I can say is that, just looking at his batted ball numbers, it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that his batting average sucks. I've talked about how much Ichiro's productivity relies on his GB/FB ratio before - the more groundballs he hits, the better his numbers look. It's a strong, virtually undeniable relationship. And it just so happens that, in the early going this year, Ichiro's putting the ball in the air more than he ever has in his career, to the tune of a 1.00 ratio (if you trust ESPN's numbers). Why this is the case is beyond me, but what's clear is that Ichiro won't get back to being who he normally is at the plate until he starts driving the ball into the ground and sprinting to first. Home runs are great and all, but they're not Ichiro, and they're not what we need him to do at the top of the lineup. You'll know that his slump is over when he starts swinging on top of the ball and keeping the shortstop busy. Until then, though, there's nothing to do but ride it out and hope that Lopez can handle the added pressure.

It's also worth noting that a remarkable 33.3% of Ichiro's fly balls have stayed in the infield so far this year, which is so far above the average that you know it's due for some significant regression to the mean. So while Ichiro's not great when he's hitting the ball in the air, he's also not as bad as he's looked. That's just a crazy flukish percentage (his previous high was 14.3% in 2003).

(WARNING: several sweeping generalizations will be made in the following paragraph. If you're easily offended, I highly recommend that you navigate your browser elsewhere.)

I hate Red Sox fans. It hasn't always been this way - I actually kind of felt bad for them in 2003, and was pulling for their team to win it all the next year because of it - but now I'm finally beginning to understand why they've been able to maintain such an immature, obnoxious reputation. They're loud, they're crass, they're often intoxicated beyond the threshold of coherence, and ever since 2004 they've been acting like theirs is the only team worth a damn in the league. They'll yell at you and roll their eyes if you dare to question their claim that "Red Sox Nation" is the most passionate, knowledgeable fan base in the world. They complain about how George Steinbrenner is ruining baseball but get all defensive when someone points out that Boston's payroll is second-highest in the league. They think that their rivalry with New York is the most important in all of competitive sports and vehemently disagree that the major networks give it too much coverage. They deny the accusation of being classless while simultaneously selling t-shirts saying such things as "Derek Jeter Has AIDS" right outside the ballpark. The think the Green Monster is a magnificent historical landmark instead of totally stupid. And, worst of all, they don't understand why people find them so insufferable. My brother's a Sox fan, and when I mentioned this to him one time, he replied "You hate Sox fans??? What the hell is wrong with you?" They think they're somehow entitled to the undying love and admiration of everybody else, and can't believe that somebody would find them irritating. Yankees fans get that people don't like them, and they're fine with it. As they should be, since their team is a perennial favorite to make the playoffs and contend for the title. Sox fans, meanwhile, are some of the most insecure people I've ever known, incapable of understanding why people don't venerate them for who they are and who the root for. And I hate them for it.

Go Blue Jays.

Tomorrow's series finale is Boston's big "F You" to the Pacific Northwest, with Gil Meche facing off against Lenny DiNardo at 8:05am PDT. Here's to the Mariners spoiling their holiday.