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MARINERS 5, RED SOX 4

Not on the ball

Wakefield, Sox fall to Seattle on one of those days

It was just one of those days for the Red Sox yesterday in a 5-4 loss to the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park.

One of those days on which David Ortiz hit a ground-rule double to right-center in the fifth inning that, had it stayed in play, would have driven in the tying run.

One of those days when Tim Wakefield "scuffled" in the second and third innings, giving up all five runs, before settling down.

One of those rare days when the embattled Seattle bullpen, which has blown eight saves, lined up perfectly, with sub-

mariner Mike Myers, Shigetoshi Hasegawa, and Eddie Guardado shutting down a Sox lineup that usually swallows up relievers. And one of those days when Johnny Damon, 0 for 5 with a pair of strikeouts, said, "I stunk out there. I was trying so hard to get a big hit, especially with the wind blowing out. We left a lot of runs on the bases."

Damon and his teammates believe that every time the Sox drive out a starter, they should win the game. And indeed Freddy Garcia was taken out after Jason Varitek flied to left for the second out of the sixth. There was hope then, as the Sox had pulled within one on Doug Mirabelli's double, which scored Kevin Millar, who had doubled to lead off the inning.

But Seattle's Bob Melvin managed this one perfectly, bringing in Myers, who struck out Damon to end the inning and strand pinch runner Pokey Reese at second.

"We could have pulled it out if I had done anything," Damon said. "We would have won the game."

There were other pivotal junctures. Take the fourth inning, please. Manny Ramirez did his part, tying Joe DiMaggio with his 361st home run, with Mark Bellhorn aboard, making it 5-2. Brian Daubach followed with a wind-blown ground-rule double. A single to center by Millar couldn't score Daubach, though Kevin Youkilis's ground out to the pitcher did. But Mirabelli ended it with a ground out.

Then came the fifth, when the Sox made two quick outs before Bellhorn, "The Walking Man," kept the inning alive by drawing a free pass. Ortiz then stroked the ball well to right-center, only to have it bound over the wall into the bullpen. "If I had tried to hit it only about 380 feet, the ball would have stayed inside and we would have scored," kidded Ortiz.

Ramirez (3 for 13 against Garcia) had a chance to do some more damage with runners at second and third, but with first base open, Melvin had Garcia pitch Ramirez carefully, and he walked him. Daubach then popped to short to end that threat.

Myers struck out all three men he faced. Hasegawa retired four of the five men he faced, and in the ninth Guardado allowed only a two-out single to Bellhorn before retiring Ortiz, his former teammate on the Twins, on a short fly to earn his ninth save -- the only save by a visiting reliever at Fenway this season.

Melvin has taken heat for the bullpen's struggles, but he had no complaints yesterday.

"We've had our struggles, sure, but every one of those guys came up big for us today," he said. "That's kind of the way we envisioned things, and that's the way we like to set up from the seventh inning on, and it worked out well today."

Wakefield did not use the wind as an excuse for his early problems. He made some mechanical adjustments after the third and seemed to pitch better. Normally, when he holds on like that, the offense can bail him out. Not so on this day.

"I think the ball was carrying a lot to center and right, but I didn't make enough good pitches," Wakefield said. "In the second and third innings, I stunk. I think a lot of it was mechanics. I was getting under the ball and they took advantage of it."

Wakefield's record fell to 4-3 as his ERA rose to 3.59.

The Mariners had four hits in the second, including an RBI single by John Olerud and a double close to the triangle in right-center by No. 9 hitter Dan Wilson that drove in a pair. In the third, Raul Ibanez homered about a dozen rows into the right-field stands and Rich Aurilia had a two-out single to center that scored Dave Hansen, who had doubled to right. Wakefield kept the Mariners at bay from the fourth until two outs in the seventh, when he walked Bret Boone and Olerud and intentionally walked Hansen before Mike Timlin came on and got out of the jam by getting Aurilia to ground to second.

The Sox, who had the best record in the majors entering the game, chalked this one up to facing a tough starter and a bullpen that had their number on this day.

"There's nothing to be frustrated about," Ortiz said. "It was a good game. Garcia pitched good. Their bullpen pitched good. We did a good job with our pitchers, too. We just couldn't get a hit when we needed it.

"That's going to happen sometime."

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