|Coco Crisp, here busting out of the box on an early double, nearly was mowed down by a motorized Moose in the fifth. (OTTO GREULE JR./GETTY IMAGES)|
Their only close call was a moose on the loose
SEATTLE -- Watching the Red Sox these days makes me impatient. I just want the playoffs to start.
This is the way it felt with the Patriots the last few years. We endure the regular season thinking about first-round byes, home-field advantage, and potential playoff matchups. It's all about the tournament. When you follow the Patriots in this century, the NFL regular season becomes a 16-game preseason.
And now it's the same with the Red Sox. Don't get hurt and hope you win the Mayor's Cup.
They're already in the playoffs. This is not something you'll hear from Theo Epstein, Larry Lucchino, or Terry Francona, but the Sox are back in the October hunt after a one-year hiatus and everything for the next two months is viewed through the prism of postseason prospects.
The Sox have the best record in baseball. They own a seven-game lead in the American League East. They were declared big winners at the trading deadline and are favorites to represent the AL in the World Series (particularly in light of the sudden free fall in Detroit).
Your team has the majors' best bullpen. Your team has enough offense and a respectable bench. Your team has two 13-game winners and Josh Beckett yesterday became baseball's fourth 14-game winner in a 9-2 rubber-match victory over the Mariners.
After purging the demons of Safeco Field Saturday night, the Sox jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first and you knew it was over. Beckett, who has dazzling stuff most days, fanned nine Seattle batters in the afternoon glare. He'd be your guy for the first game of the playoffs. He's especially tough when staked to a lead. Meanwhile, Theo has shortened the game for Francona and friends and the troika of Hideki Okajima, Eric Gagne, and Jonathan Papelbon is going to make teams want to get ahead of the Sox in the first six innings.
The only close call for the Sox came when Coco Crisp (two doubles in the first two innings, great catch in the seventh, sac fly in the eighth) was almost flattened by the Seattle mascot in the fifth inning. Crisp was headed out to his position in center field when the Mariner Moose -- driving an all-terrain vehicle at a high speed to The Beach Boys' "I Get Around" -- roared along the track in front of the Sox' dugout and almost pancaked the Boston speedster. Ichiro better watch out the next time the Mariners come to Fenway. Sox chairman Tom Werner already has vowed revenge and again will don the Wally suit to go after the Seattle superstar.
"I didn't see it, but I heard it was like a 'Naked Gun' movie," said Francona. "I got enough to think about -- lefthanders, righthanders -- let alone a [expletive] moose on a [expletive] motorcycle."
When approached after the game, Crisp first said, "I have no comment about the moose." Then he expanded his thoughts to say, "I'm not an angry person. I'm not gonna run over and clothesline the guy . . . Yeah, I hit the ground, but my knee didn't touch so I kept on running. It was an accident."
Asked if he might to go dinner with the Mariner Moose the next time the Sox were here, Crisp said, "Yeah, and we'll eat moose jerky."
Tonight the Sox introduce another solid starter, a guy with a World Series MVP trophy at home. Fellow named Schilling. Pitching for the first time in almost two months, Blogboy Blowhard Curt will face the Angels in another potential playoff preview. Nice August acquisition.
I can't wait to see what Manny Ramírez might do in Anaheim. He was hyperactive in Seattle. He made news on the base paths in the first two games, demonstrated some new routines in the dugout, prowled left field like a burglar, and crushed a home run to left-center yesterday. Ramírez is scalding the baseball since the All-Star break.
"We become a lot more dangerous when he and David [Ortiz] are swinging the bat the way they are," said Francona.
It's good for the Sox to interrupt their season-long series with the Devil Rays by playing teams that might actually be in the playoffs. The Sox were able to take two of three at Safeco and have the same goal in southern California.
And now they have to think about the Yankees again.
When Francona was asked a Yankees-related question Saturday, he said he didn't even know who the Bombers were playing. Fair enough. No need for the Sox skipper to be obsessed with something totally out of his control. There's plenty for him to do without that distraction. But some of us (me included) eliminated the Yankees prematurely. Now they're on fire and though unlikely to catch the Sox in the division, they're just a half-game behind Detroit for the wild card. Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the movies.
Really, now. Imagine the Rocket starting a playoff game at Fenway.
October can't get here fast enough.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.