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Sox can't get handle on Seattle

SEATTLE -- Manny Ramírez may have done the smartest thing any Red Sox outfielder did yesterday afternoon when he took advantage of a break in the action in the sixth inning -- reliever Craig Hansen was trotting in to pitch -- to grab a seat in the Sox bullpen.

Too bad Ramírez didn't invite center fielder Coco Crisp to join him there for the rest of the afternoon -- for a nap, perhaps, or a barbecue, a poetry reading -- anything that would have spared them the embarrassment of what came later.

In the end, this 9-8 Red Sox loss to the Mariners was on reliever Mike Timlin, who gave up the walkoff home run to Richie Sexson, the tallest (6 feet 8 inches) Seattle pro athlete not playing for the SuperSonics, negating the two-out, game-tying home run Jason Varitek hit in the top of the ninth off M's closer J.J. Putz and giving the home team the rubber game of this three-game set.

``That's as pretty a swing as he's taken in a long time," Sox manager Terry Francona said of Varitek's home run, his second in three games here and one that nearly cracked the glass window of the ``Hit It Here" Cafe in the first deck of the right-field stands. ``He got us back in the right part of the game.

``But then Sexson came up and broke our hearts."

The real kick to another part of the Sox anatomy, however, came in the eighth inning, when Crisp and Ramírez collaborated on an inside-the-park home run by Adrian Beltre that in its own way unfolded as weirdly as the last inside-the-parker hit against the Sox, the one in which a diving Ramírez came out of nowhere to cut off Johnny Damon's throw to the infield (``Manny jumps and makes a highlight catch," Damon said of that play, which came almost two years to the day -- July 22, 2004 -- of yesterday's misadventure. ``Unfortunately, it was an embarrassing one for me and him.")

Timlin was the victim of yesterday's play, when Crisp ran back to the Nikon sign in left-center, anticipating he would have to vault above the fence to keep the ball in play. Instead, the ball hit the sign almost out of camera range from where Crisp made his leap -- behind him, 6 feet to his right.

``I thought I had a bead on it," said Crisp, who noted the sun was troublesome but didn't pin blame on the way the planets were aligned.

``I went where I thought it would be, I took my eyes off it for a few seconds. I was going to rob him, but it landed right behind me."

After that? ``Chaos ensued," Timlin said. ``Nothing I can do but stand there."

The ball caromed back toward the infield past Ramírez, who with his back to the wall grabbed it but had it slip out of his grasp and roll back in Crisp's direction, almost as if Ramírez was flipping it that way. Retrieve it? Nah. Like a good setter, Ramírez pointed at it.

``I saw him pointing," Crisp said. ``I didn't know what happened. I guess he was in the right position, it just caromed off him. I was just picking it up and throwing it in the direction I thought it should go. It happened so quick, I threw it as hard as I could, but the guys were lined up a little more to the left of where I'm facing."

Crisp's throw sailed over the head of cutoff man Alex Gonzalez. Third baseman Mike Lowell ran it down and managed a strong, off-balance throw, but a sliding Beltre won the race to the plate for the first inside-the-parker since Safeco opened its doors seven years ago.

``The guy goes to third, that's not the end of world, but then we missed the cutoff man," Francona said. ``I'm glad the ball stayed in the yard. It's a rare thing that happens. It hurt us."

Safeco was not a safe haven for Crisp this weekend. On Saturday, he broke back on Beltre's seventh-inning blooper that fell between Crisp and Gonzalez in a two-run Mariners rally that broke open a 5-2 Seattle win.

``We almost had him," Crisp said of Beltre yesterday, ``but I've got to hit the guy who was closer [Gonzalez]."

Other than the bullpen, there was no place for Ramírez to seek refuge, either. He went into a slide but could not come up with Raul Ibanez's broken-bat flare that fell among three Sox players in the first, when the first four Mariners reached base safely to seize a 3-0 lead against homeboy Jon Lester.

Then, in the seventh, when Manny Delcarmen, who had allowed just one run in his previous dozen outings, was trying to protect a 7-5 lead, Ramírez tried to cut off Kenji Johjima's base hit with another slide and wound up kicking it, Johjima winding up with a double as Sexson, who had singled, scored to make it 7-6. When Yuniesky Betancourt followed with another hit, a line single to left, the score was tied.

Francona said it was unfair to fault Ramírez on the play, as did Crisp.

``He was trying to make a nice play, it hit off his leg instead of his glove," Crisp said. ``I tried to put on the brakes a little bit, but it was a hustle play."

Timlin knew he'd had success against Sexson, but wasn't sure of the numbers. Curt Schilling was. ``One for 16," Schilling said.

Make that 2 for 17, after Timlin failed to elevate a fastball and Sexson golfed it over the head of Ramírez, who walked slowly back to the dugout, the last position player to depart the premises.

``It happens," Timlin said of Sexson beating him. ``That's why they have an `average.' "

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