SEATTLE -- Finally, it seemed, the Red Sox had put the "safe" back in Safeco. They'd throttled Ichiro, cracked the Mariners' vaunted bullpen, pounded out 13 extra-base hits in two days, including eight in yesterday's 9-2 win, and received back-to-back rousing starts from Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett that made their nine-game losing streak here seem like a distant memory.
Then they discovered there is no end to the perils a visitor can encounter here.
It's hard to worry about the Yankees, who won for the sixth time in seven games yesterday to remain seven games back in the division, when you might be blindsided by the Mariner Moose, which accounted for the crowd around Coco Crisp's locker after the game.
"Everybody's huddled around Coco," said outfielder J.D. Drew, who tripled in a run and scored when the Sox broke open a 3-1 game with two runs in the seventh, the Sox adding three more in the eighth and another in the ninth, all at the expense of a Seattle bullpen that had put up nothing but zeroes in the first two games of the series.
"I'm thinking, 'Is that the story, Coco almost getting struck by a four-wheeler with a moose on it?' "
Well, yes and no. There was Beckett, striking out seven in the first three innings and nine in 6 2/3 innings overall en route to his 14th win, matching Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs, C.C. Sabathia of the Indians, and John Lackey of the Angels for most in the majors. There was shortstop Julio Lugo, slipping undetected behind Raul Ibanez for a pickoff play at second that squashed a Mariners threat in the fourth. There was Manny Ramírez hitting his 19th home run and David Ortiz stealing his second base, a surprise of such magnitude that no one on the Mariners bothered to cover the bag, catcher Jamie Burke's throw sailing into center field.
And there was Ichiro, going 0 for 5 for the second straight game, 1 for 14 in the series, and 5 for 36 against the Sox this season.
"We value so much keeping him off base," Sox manager Terry Francona said. "That doesn't mean we can do it. But our guys made good pitches, and I think the success you have against [the Mariners] has a direct correlation to keeping him off base, because he can do so many things.
"But rather than pat ourselves on the back or pounding our chests, just move on and let him beat up on somebody else."
If Ichiro doesn't get the next team, maybe the Mariner Moose will. Just ask Crisp, who yesterday doubled twice and walked, scored twice, hit a sacrifice fly, and made another of his belly-flop catches. All of which was nothing, he said, compared with darting out of the way of a four-wheel all-terrain vehicle commandeered by the Seattle mascot, which clipped Crisp on the knee as he was heading out to center field for the bottom of the fifth but very easily could have left him with moose tracks not easily laughed off.
"That was the most athletic thing I did all day," Crisp said of avoiding the speeding Moose, though trainers checked his knee at the end of the inning.
"I never got hit by a moving vehicle before," said Crisp, "but now I can put that on my list of things I've survived."
Normally, Drew said, he and Crisp run out to their positions together, but yesterday Drew had a bit of a headstart and thus didn't see the Moose, who was making a lap around the field and failed to yield to Crisp crossing in front of the Sox dugout. At first, Drew said, he thought Crisp had gotten away without a scratch.
He learned differently when they jogged back to the dugout.
"Coco told me, 'I got hit. At least you could have warned me.' I said, 'I didn't even see it. How many times during the middle of the day do you have to check for traffic?' Seriously, I'm not going to look left and right, I'm not crossing a highway, or jaywalking, or anything."
Evidently, ballplayers face this type of occupational hazard more than commonly thought.
"There have been several times I've come out of the dugout where there's a truck driving by or a car or, in Milwaukee, a motorcycle," Drew said. "Everyone does these promotional things, and a lot of 'em come out quick.
"If you ain't on the lookout, you're going to get yourself in a bind."
The Sox dugout was steamed, most notably pitching coach John Farrell, who could be seen giving the mascot and other stadium personnel an earful. Mortified Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi quickly sent down apologies, Francona said. And Crisp promised he wouldn't hold a grudge. When someone asked him if he'd be willing to have dinner next time in with the mascot, Crisp didn't miss a beat.
"Yeah," he said, "Moose jerky."
Now the Sox, winners of five straight series since dropping three straight to the lowly Royals -- three out of four from the White Sox and Indians, two of three over the Devil Rays, Orioles, and the Mariners -- head to Disneyland (where all manner of costumed creatures lurk) for three games against the Angels in a battle of division leaders. The Sox don't take their mascot on the road, but they can counter with Curt Schilling, making his return to the rotation tonight after missing seven weeks with shoulder tendinitis.
"It's huge," Beckett (14-5) said of Schilling rejoining a rotation that also has two 13-game winners in Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield. "It's almost like we're getting an ace in a waiver deal."
Better an ace in hand than a moose on the loose.