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Manny Ramirez watches home run No. 400 -- a three-run shot that drew the Red Sox within one run -- clear the right-field wall at Safeco Field yesterday.
Manny Ramirez watches home run No. 400 -- a three-run shot that drew the Red Sox within one run -- clear the right-field wall at Safeco Field yesterday. (Reuters Photo)

Long, short of it

Ramirez blasts No. 400 but Sox are lacking at end

SEATTLE -- His emotional state, measured in word and expression, fell somewhere between blithe and indifferent. Four hundred home runs? Fifth quickest to the milestone, based upon at-bats? The 39th player ever to accomplish the feat?

''That means nothing to me," Manny Ramirez said in one breath, before later calling the landmark blast a ''great moment of my life."

Presumably, the accomplishment resonated somewhere within the Red Sox slugger, who yesterday continued swinging his way toward the bucolic town of Cooperstown, N.Y. His caddie yesterday was Seattle starter Gil Meche, who left a 1-and-1 fastball over the plate in the fifth inning of a 5-4 Sox loss that Ramirez propelled into Row 4 of Section 107 at Safeco Field before 46,145 witnesses.

The ball didn't appear gone off the bat, but it was hurrying, and it climbed and arched and faded to Black. Mark Black, that is. The Seattle man seated 405 feet from home plate came up with the ball and returned it to the 32-year-old Sox left fielder for a simple bounty -- a signed 34-inch, 34-ounce maple bat, and a signed baseball.

''Probably put it on eBay," Ramirez said. ''See how much I could get. Probably $200."

No. 500 figures to be worth even more, though Ramirez, when asked about his healthy chance of hitting 500, said, ''No, my train already stopped."

Ramirez's lined shot pulled the Sox within 5-4, but that would be it. Boston never could overcome the Seattle half of the second inning, when the Mariners scored four times on five hits (three singles, two doubles).

Seattle catcher Miguel Olivo (3 for 4 with a home run and two RBIs) provided the most maddening moment of that inning for Sox starter Tim Wakefield. Olivo followed one-out singles by Bret Boone and Jeremy Reed with a slow roller to the left side of the infield. Bill Mueller attempted to barehand the ball, which slipped by him to Mark Bellhorn. Bellhorn threw home errantly, was charged with an error, and Boone scored on the play.

''That ends up being a screwy play," manager Terry Francona said. ''Billy has to go after it like that."

The No. 9 hitter, Willie Bloomquist, doubled, scoring Reed. Ichiro Suzuki grounded out, scoring Olivo, and Randy Winn delivered a two-out double, plating Bloomquist for a 4-0 lead.

''I made some bad pitches," Wakefield said. ''After that I felt like I did really well. I wish I could have that one inning back. I felt better as the game went on."

That showed. He'd passed the 100-pitch mark after six innings, with 101, but went out for the seventh and recorded a three-pitch inning.

''I'll say this for Wake," Francona said. ''He found his knuckleball, and he stayed out there effectively."

Still, Seattle graffitied the field with 11 hits off him, a season high for Wakefield, who is now 4-2 with a 3.61 ERA. In his first four starts Wakefield was 2-0 with a 1.75 ERA, allowing just five earned runs in 25{dbcomma} innings. In his last four starts, he's 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA, allowing 16 earned runs in 26{dbcomma} innings.

And this Seattle team has become a real obstacle for the 38-year-old knuckleballer. Wakefield hasn't beaten Seattle since July 27, 1997, a span of 16 starts. He's never won at Safeco, and his last win in this city was at the Kingdome June 1, 1996.

Olivo's homer to lead off the fourth proved to be the difference for a guy who hasn't been much of a difference-maker at the plate. Obtained in the Freddy Garcia deal with the White Sox last June, Olivo homered on a 3-and-1 pitch, his first long ball since Aug. 27, 2004. He went into yesterday's game hitting just .125 (10 for 80).

Oddly, Olivo credited his quality at-bats to watching Kevin Millar hit this weekend. Last season, Millar said the same thing about Olivo. A year ago, Millar opened up his stance and began hitting. Yesterday, Olivo opened up his stance and lifted his hands. The result: three hits and two RBIs.

Johnny Damon led off the ninth with a single to left, a day after going hitless to snap his 18-game hitting streak, the best in the AL this season. But Edgar Renteria -- who went 0 for 5 and didn't get a ball out of the infield -- popped up a foul ball to first baseman Richie Sexson. David Ortiz grounded out, sending Damon to second with Ramirez coming up.

''Yeah, I was tempted to put Manny on," said Seattle manager Mike Hargrove, who managed Ramirez in Cleveland. ''I was tempted to go out and tell [closer Eddie Guardado] to pitch around him. Then I thought, 'You know what? Eddie's our closer. And closers are supposed to get people out.

''For me, you start playing around with a guy who's an established closer, and all of a sudden thoughts you don't want entering his mind start entering his mind. So yeah, I was sort of tempted."

Guardado worked Ramirez on the outer half of the plate, inducing a flyout to Suzuki to end the game.

''Manny's not hitting like he should right now," Guardado said of Ramirez, who is on pace for 44 home runs and 149 RBIs but is batting just .248. ''But when he starts going to right field, like he did [on the home run], you know he's starting to get close.

''I was going to go low and away, low and away. If he beats me, he beats me. But I wasn't going to go inside."

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