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Mariners, Red Sox Observe Holiday, Barely Labor

the face of the Red Sox right now
the face of the Red Sox right now

Run differential is a pretty important statistic. I probably don't need to say that to any of you, if you've been reading blogs like LL for more than a few weeks, but run differential is a tricky stat to beat, in either direction. Teams that maintain poor run differentials tend to have their records catch up with them. Teams that maintain strong run differentials tend to have their records catch up with them, too. The most important thing to do in baseball is to outscore your opponent. That's what run differential tracks, and so run differential is worth tracking.

But a full-season run differential usually doesn't tell you enough. By that I mean, a team changes over the course of the year, so depending on how significant the changes, the run differential might lose some of its meaning. In the case of the Baltimore Orioles, they keep winning despite having been outscored, and everybody keeps talking about that, but the Orioles' run differential since the All-Star break is positive, and it's +27 since August 4. The Orioles' roster has changed, and now they're playing legitimately good baseball.

And on the opposite side, we can look at the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox have an overall run differential of -9, which happens to be exactly the same run differential as that of the Mariners. Based on the Red Sox's run differential, you wouldn't think they're that bad. You wouldn't think they're bad at all. But the Red Sox have been plummeting, and they're at -66 since July 2. They're at -42 since a week ago. The Red Sox now have little in common with the Red Sox team that outscored its opponents over the first few months of the season.

One look at today's starting lineup would've told you as much. Some of it is just bad luck; David Ortiz is awesome and injured, and Will Middlebrooks is good and injured. Then there's under-performance, and then there are trades. The Red Sox made an outstanding trade with the Dodgers a little while ago, but that trade wasn't outstanding because it made the Red Sox better right now. It sets them up to be better in the future, and worse now. Adrian Gonzalez is a good player and James Loney is a good player relative to you, probably.

This afternoon, on a holiday, for a game against the Red Sox, the Mariners sold fewer than 22,000 tickets. One of the reasons is that the Red Sox just aren't good. In fact, the Red Sox, these current Red Sox, are bad. That is a pretty bad baseball team suiting up in the Red Sox's uniforms. And for the sake of some perspective, this was the first time in Safeco Field's history that it hosted a bad Red Sox team. It's hosted decent or mediocre Red Sox teams before, but never a team like this. This was a genuinely new experience, and it felt like something was missing. As fun as it's been to watch the Mariners beat the Red Sox before, now it's more like they beat any other team. This game lacked that intensity and emotional belligerence.

Depending on your level of hatred, I suppose it can still be fun to kick a team when it's down, and the Red Sox are the most down they've been in some time. And you never know when they'll bounce right back, since God knows they have the resources to do so, so maybe this is something to savor. Maybe we needn't think about which team to hate more now that it's hard to hate the Red Sox the same. But just in case we do all need to pick a team to hate more, I suggest the White Sox. Fuck the fuckin White Sox. Oh, wow, you're named after socks, way to go. Just missing the cut were the Chicago Linoleum and the Chicago Fuzzy Stuff Under The Refrigerator.

It is a little mind-blowing how long the Red Sox have been at least all right. It is mind-blowing that a bad Red Sox team had never before set foot in Safeco Field. Lots of bad Mariners teams have set foot in Safeco Field. Even when security locked the doors and turned the lights off those bad Mariners teams kept finding a way to get in and play Jose Lopez.

This afternoon's was a very comfortable and quiet baseball game. I almost wrote that the Red Sox beat themselves, but they didn't; they just contributed to the Mariners' winning effort. This was a baseball game with Jason Vargas in Safeco, so now you know exactly how it went, in case you were off doing something else and now you're trying to catch up. Vargas emerged with his 14th win of the season, and while we might mention pitcher wins and losses maybe once a month, Vargas became the first non-Felix Mariners pitcher to win 14 games since 2003. So, speaking of a little perspective. In recognition of the achievement, Vargas receives a handwritten note, reading "neato". Vargas wrote the note to himself and put it in his own mailbox.

The Red Sox did have a lead today at one point. Philosophically and mathematically, you could argue that they had a lead today at infinite points. With two outs in the first, Dustin Pedroia doubled and Cody Ross singled him home. But then whoever Mauro Gomez is flied out and the Red Sox were just about finished playing offense. It was up to the Mariners to score more than one run against Clay Buchholz, and they did manage exactly that, with help.

Buchholz was actually pretty good, or at least he looked pretty good, in that way where it's impossible to tell how much is the pitcher and how much is the opposition. But everything that had to come apart came apart in the bottom of the fourth and that was when the game's other runs were scored. Franklin Gutierrez chopped an 0-and-2 infield single. Kyle Seager got grazed ever so slightly by a fastball inside. It was basically like the baseball gave Seager a very tentative kiss, but if I remember these correctly, kissing counts as first base. So Seager went to first base. Makes sense.

John Jaso pulled a good pitch for a single. Justin Smoak pulled a good pitch for a single. That fast, Buchholz was behind without having done much of anything wrong. Then matters would only get worse. Buchholz got Eric Thames to fly out to shallow center, and Jaso drew a throw by bluffing home. The throw wasn't very off-target but somehow it got away from Ryan Lavarnway anyway and Jaso scored while Smoak advanced to second. The Red Sox created a Mariners run out of nothing. Then Buchholz threw a poor fastball to Miguel Olivo that Olivo slapped for a single. That set up Carlos Peguero with men on the corners, and Peguero hit a routine grounder to Jose Iglesias at short. Earlier, the broadcast had talked about how Iglesias was voted the best defensive infielder in the Red Sox's system. Iglesias received the baseball and couldn't decide what to do with it, so instead of turning a double play, he turned a nothing play, throwing too late to first to get Peguero. It was nothing but a simple brain fart, and maybe Iglesias knows enough about Carlos Peguero that he was floored by the fact that Peguero put the ball in play, but actually no that makes perfect sense. Iglesias was probably just caught off guard by the ball being put in play.

One pitch later, Iglesias started a spectacular double play against Brendan Ryan. The inning ended with the Mariners up 4-1 and with Brendan Ryan having had his eyes opened wide.

Ryan: Wait
Ryan: Is that what it's like when I do that?
Ryan: Jesus!
Ryan: That sucks!
Ryan: Jesus!

From that point on neither team did anything. All of the hitters might as well have been cardboard faces from the Guess Who? board game. There were baserunners, but there was never a real threat of any of them scoring. Justin Smoak lined into a double play with two on in the bottom of the eighth, but that wasn't a scoring threat because Justin Smoak was batting and I decided that if I'm really mean about Justin Smoak maybe he'll get angry and start being worth a damn. Your move, Smoaky.

Tom Wilhelmsen handled the ninth and didn't suck. His fastball command still wasn't sharp and he didn't miss a single bat, but he did generate four routine grounders, with Dustin Ackley fumbling one of them. Dustin Ackley went 0-for-4 with a routine error. As amazing as it is that John Jaso has turned into John Jaso, it is equally amazing that Dustin Ackley has turned into that.

Trayvon Robinson batted and walked, giving him as many unintentional walks as he had a season ago in 47 fewer plate appearances. He also has 37 fewer strikeouts, so in order to match last season's strikeout rate, he'd have to strike out 37 times in his next 47 plate appearances. Carlos Peguero struck out only once. The only Mariners starter who didn't strike out exactly once was Miguel Olivo, who didn't strike out at all. This is a sentence that you have read on the Internet.

For Vargas, it was a good day with a good changeup. He didn't face a very good team. For the Mariners' offense, it was a pedestrian day against a decent pitcher, and we've seen the Mariners' offense do a lot worse against a lot worse. It'd be good to stock up a few more wins against the Red Sox before the Mariners take on the Oakland juggernaut. This is another sentence that you have read on the Internet.