Manny's milestone goes for naught

Manny's milestone goes for naught

SEATTLE -- It had already been a milestone day for Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez, who stepped to the box with Johnny Damon on second and his team down by a run with two outs in the top of the ninth. So why wouldn't you expect the star slugger to deliver the latest big hit of his highlight-filled career?

Red Sox manager Terry Francona sure thought that's what he was witnessing when Ramirez struck a liner to right that seemed to have game-tying, RBI double written all over it. But Mariners superstar Ichiro Suzuki got his typically terrific jump on the ball and made the play look easy, flagging down the final out of the game and preserving a 5-4 win for the Mariners.

"Suzuki, he's about as close as I've seen to [Andruw Jones]," said Francona. "Off the bat, it's a hit, and all of a sudden it's not even a tough play. I know he's got good speed, but his instincts are incredible."

Incredible enough to prevent the Sox from being able to leave Seattle with a series win. This on a day Ramirez clubbed the 400th homer of his career, a three-run shot to right in the fifth that trimmed a 5-1 Seattle lead down to a run.

But the Sox never could chip that final piece of the deficit away.

Tim Wakefield, on a day he had far from his best knuckleball, grinded it out and kept the Sox within striking distance. But in retrospect, that four-run Seattle second was something Wakefield and the Sox were never able to recover from.

"The second inning was the one inning I'd like to have back," said Wakefield. "Balls that weren't hit very hard got in for hits and then I couldn't stop the bleeding, made some bad pitches, allowed them to score some runs. After that, I feel like I did fairly well. I'd like to have that one inning back."

He'd probably also like to retrieve an ugly infield roller in that inning by Miguel Olivo that wound up being an RBI single.

"They scored a run on a 52-hopper to third base, so obviously it's something that's not normal, but it worked out in their favor," said Sox catcher Doug Mirabelli.

Wakefield surrendered 12 hits and five runs over seven innings, making a nice recovery after the shaky start.

Fastest to 400 homers
The fastest players to hit 400 home runs in the Major Leagues with name and number of official at-bats.
Babe Ruth4,854
Harmon Killebrew5,300
Jim Thome5,416
Manny Ramirez5,695
Willie McCovey5,751
Jimmie Foxx5,774
Mike Schmidt5,790

Down, 4-0, after two innings, the Sox got one back quickly in the third, with Ortiz smashing a solo homer to right. Seattle offset that run in the fourth when Miguel Olivo took Wakefield deep for a solo shot, his first of the season, in the fourth.

But the Sox didn't go down lightly. Mark Bellhorn and Johnny Damon led off the fifth with singles. With two outs, Ramirez belted a three-run shot to right off Mariners starter Gil Meche to put the Sox within one.

Ramirez became the fifth-fastest player in baseball history to hit 400 homers, Only Mark McGwire, Babe Ruth, Harmon Killebrew and Jim Thome did it in less at-bats than the 5,695 it took Ramirez.

"I accomplished a lot already," Ramirez said. "This game is supposed to be fun. I'm just going out there playing my game and trying to win. I knew it was going to happen someday. I wasn't trying to put any pressure on myself."

On came Mariners closer Eddie Guardado in the ninth, and Damon started the Sox out right with a single past the hole at shortstop. Edgar Renteria popped out and Ortiz hit a grounder to third, allowing Damon to scoot to second.

Mariners manager Mike Hargrove opted to go after Ramirez with the game on the line, and the slugger nearly made him pay.

But he didn't get quite as much on that opposite field flyball as his homer earlier in the game. Ichiro provided closure for Guardado's 10th save.

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.