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Originally published Monday, May 16, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Mariners

Olivo fixes bat, M's

In baseball, a friend in need is a friend in a slump. So thought Miguel Olivo last year when he saw Kevin Millar of the Boston Red Sox slumping...

Seattle Times staff reporter

In baseball, a friend in need is a friend in a slump.

So thought Miguel Olivo last year when he saw Kevin Millar of the Boston Red Sox slumping in mid-July, and reminded him of his old stance: feet open, hands high.

And so Millar, who turned his 2004 season around with a big second half, returned the favor over the weekend and inadvertently may have cost his team. The Mariners beat the Red Sox 5-4 yesterday at Safeco Field to win their first series in more than two weeks.

Olivo had three hits, including his first home run of the year and a key single in a four-run second, and did a solid job behind the plate.

"My friend, he told me yesterday to go back to the position I had in Chicago," Olivo said of Millar. "I looked at some films and, yeah, he was right. I had my feet closer together now and my hands down."

Olivo was 0 for 27 in his previous 10 games and was sharing his position until Wiki Gonzalez injured a hamstring.

Mariners update


WP: Gil Meche (3-2)

LP: Tim Wakefield (4-2)

Tonight: Yankees at M's, 7:05, FSN/ KOMO (1000)

Pitchers: M's Sele vs. Wang

"I tried it and it felt comfortable," said Olivo, who shares a similar stance with Millar. "I don't think he thought it would hurt his team. He told me Saturday, and I wasn't playing."

But Gonzalez was hurt late in Saturday's game, and Olivo went in. In his only at-bat, he sizzled a well-struck ground ball to third for an out.

Yesterday, Olivo ended his hitless streak in the four-run second with a topped roller to shortstop that not only went for a hit, but scored a runner from second.

"Olivo stayed on the ball, was not pulling off and not trying to do too much with a pitch," Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said.

With Tim Wakefield throwing those tantalizing knuckleballs for Boston, Bret Boone and Jeremy Reed led off the second with a bloop and a bouncer, respectively, for hits. Olivo followed with his roller. The ball eluded charging shortstop Edgar Renteria and came to a stop in shallow left, where no one could reach it in time to stop Boone from scoring the first run.

Doubles by Willie Bloomquist and Randy Winn made it 4-0. David Ortiz homered in the third, but Olivo smacked a 3-1 pitch into the visitors' bullpen to make it 5-1 in the fourth.

M's starting pitcher Gil Meche, on and off this year, was on for most of his six innings. Even his offering to Manny Ramirez, who hit a three-run homer for the 400th of his career to cut the lead to one, wasn't that bad a pitch.


DEAN RUTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Bret Boone scores in the second inning on Miguel Olivo's infield hit to give the Mariners a 1-0 lead they never relinquished. The Mariners went on to score three more times in the inning.

"It was a fastball away; he just went out and got it," Meche said of the pitch Ramirez drove out to right. "While I don't think the pitch was that bad, I think I made a mistake going back to that location, since I had been pitching him there a lot."

With the score 5-4, Mariners relievers took over in the seventh. And if they had been able to shut down Boston in order the rest of the way, Ortiz and Ramirez would only have hit once over the final three innings.

"I've seen Manny hit a lot of homers, although I just don't enjoy them like I used to," said Hargrove, who managed Ramirez in Cleveland. "You don't want to see them up again in the ninth. Then, we got to see them hit in the ninth."

Reliever Shigetoshi Hasegawa got the first two outs in the seventh, but Ortiz singled, which meant he likely would hit again.

J.J. Putz came back strong from Nixon's decisive grand slam Saturday to pitch a 1-2-3 eighth, which left closer Eddie Guardado facing the top of the order. When Johnny Damon led off a single, it meant Ramirez would likely bat again.

"Yeah, they're the toughest 3-4 hitters in the league," said Guardado, who earned his 10th save.

"But that was fun. It's fun to win, and fun to compete with a team as good as Boston.

"To have any chance you have to keep the ball down. I kept it down and got Ortiz on a grounder. Then Manny hit it to right to end the game. If that's not down, it's gone."

Bob Finnigan: 206-464-8276 or bfinnigan@seattletimes.com

Fastest to 400
Manny Ramirez ranks as the fifth-fastest player to hit 400 career home runs, as measured by official at-bats:
No. Player AB
1. Mark McGwire 4,726
2. Babe Ruth 4,854
3. Harmon Killebrew 5,300
4. Jim Thome 5,416
5. Manny Ramirez 5,695
6. Willie McCovey 5,751
7. Jimmie Foxx 5,774
8. Mike Schmidt 5,790
The Associated Press

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