There are bus depots in America that wish they had the foot traffic of the Red Sox clubhouse. Duquette has suited up 51 players this season, importing designated hitter Dante Bichette and outfielder Midre Cummings in trades last Thursday with, respectively, the Cincinnati Reds and the Minnesota Twins. All that activity, however, hasn't improved an offense that lacks speed and power. Bichette met his wife at a gym behind Fenway's leftfield wall and was a career .366 hitter in Boston at the time of the trade, which is why he said upon arrival, "This is where I always wanted to play. Hopefully I can get hot and give this team a lift down the stretch."
Bichette got only three singles in his first 15 at bats with the Red Sox. A slump by shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, usually Boston's most prolific hitter, had exacerbated the Red Sox' scoring troubles. In the four weekend games, the Mariners held him to three hits in 17 at bats; with a third-inning single on Monday, Garciaparra drove in his first run in 16 games. In a four-game span beginning on Aug. 30, Boston lost on a four-hitter, a three-hitter and a one-hitter.
Meanwhile, the Mariners had used a league-low 36 players, and general manager Pat Gillick had suffered from his own poor batting average. After promising to add a run producer this year following the trade of Ken Griffey Jr. to the Reds, Gillick whiffed on deals for Jim Edmonds, Travis Lee, David Segui, Dmitri Young and, at the July 31 trading deadline, Juan Gonzalez. When the Tigers backed out of a deal involving Gonzalez, Gillick made a late grab for San Diego Padres leftfielder Al Martin, who through Monday had been an unqualified bust (.228, seven RBIs in 25 games). "We're not going to outslug anybody," says Piniella. "We don't play well from behind. We need to get walks, bunt, move runners and get a couple of timely hits."
That approach worked well over the weekend, when Seattle's offense wasn't quite as bad as Boston's. Righthander Freddy Garcia (seven innings of three-hit, one-run ball on Saturday) and Abbott dominated the Red Sox. On Sunday, Mariners first baseman John Olerud, who had missed three games because of the birth of his second child, returned with a two-run double (his first multiple RBI game since Aug. 4) and a box of cigars, which he doled out in the clubhouse after the win. Piniella had one sitting on his desk as he observed, "You wouldn't think veterans would get nervous, but they were. I had talked with some of them individually, and they told me everything was fine. But that's not how they played. So I called them into my office. I like just having the veterans. It gets too crowded if you try to do it with everybody."
Abbott clutched his cigar in his right hand as he discussed the game of his nomadic baseball life. "We look like we're back on track now," he said. That's when a reporter asked him about the power of Piniella's meeting.
"I wasn't in it," he said. "What'd he say, anyway?"
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