The Mariners' closer took a deep breath, tackled the situation head-on, and recorded the three outs he needed to secure Seattle's 5-4 victory over the reigning World Series champions before 46,145, the second sellout in the three-game series and third sellout of the season.
"That was fun," Guardado said. "With a team like Boston, you need the energy because they are such a good team and they keep coming at you. It's always fun to win, and always fun to compete against those guys. When I'm huffing and puffing out there, that means I am having a good time."
A good time was had by all of the Mariners as they won a series for the first time this month.
The bottom third of the lineup came up big as the seven-eight-nine hitters went a combined 6-for-11, scored four runs and drove in three runs.
Jeremy Reed (1-for-4), Miguel Olivo (3-for-4) and Willie Bloomquist (2-for-3) went nose-to-nose with the middle of Boston's lineup and came out on top. Ichiro Suzuki added a single and two stolen bases and left fielder Randy Winn contributed two doubles, a walk and an RBI.
"The last four or five days we have started playing better baseball," Hargrove said. "At-bats have gotten better and there is more energy. Things are pointing to coming out of this."
Olivo enjoyed his best all-around game of the season. He did a superb job working with starter Gil Meche, helping the right-hander navigate a tough fifth inning, and had his first three-hit game of the season.
"He stayed on the pitches better and didn't try to overdo anything," Hargrove said. "He had good at-bats, was patient with the counts and hit the pitches he should have hit.
"That scratch infield hit he got in the second inning was a major relax hit for him. It's not often you hit a ball like that and get an RBI."
Olivo's infield single led to the first of four runs being scored on Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield in the second inning. With runners on first and second bases, Red Sox third baseman Bill Mueller attempted to make a barehand pickup on the ball, which bounced toward shortstop.
Bret Boone, who had been on second, rounded third base and kept going, beating second baseman Mark Bellhorn's slightly off-target throw to the plate. Bloomquist drove a double off the wall in right field for the second run of the inning, Ichiro drove in a run on an infield out and Winn delivered a run-scoring double to right-center.
But a big lead against the Red Sox is no sure victory.
Sure enough, the Sox socked back, getting a solo home run from Ortiz (No. 10) with two outs in the third inning and a three-run blast to right field by Manny Ramirez in the fifth, the slugger's 400th career homer.
"I used to enjoy them a lot more," said Hargrove, who managed Ramirez for more than seven years with the Indians. "Manny is a good hitter. He's a good RBI hitter. For me, Manny is a future Hall of Famer, plain and simple. Not that I am campaigning for him, don't get me wrong, but that's the regard I have for Manny Ramirez."
But he is not alone in the respect-for-Manny club.
When Ramirez walked to the plate with two outs in the ninth inning, Guardado reminded himself to keep the ball down and away from the slugger, who represented the go-ahead run and already had demonstrated what he could do with a ball that got too much of the strike zone.
"The ball just jumps off his bat, but if you keep the ball down, you have a better chance," Guardado said.
Ramirez hammered a down and away pitch to right field, but Ichiro raced toward center field and made a routine catch to end the game and the series.
"These are fun games, but we don't want too many of these one-run games," Guardado said. "The most impressive thing today was the way J.J. [Putz] came back from [Saturday night]. He did a helluva job."
Putz, a hard-throwing right-handed reliever, pitched a perfect eighth inning Sunday to remove some of the sting remaining from grand slam he surrendered to Trot Nixon in the seventh inning of Saturday night's 6-3 loss.
"I talked to him before the game and asked him how he felt," Guardado said, "and he said he was fine."
Hargrove also was pleased with the clean relief inning by Putz.
"J.J. is a good competitor and you learn early on that last night is last night and you have to let it go," Hargrove said. "If you don't, you never will be a success in this game. J.J. showed he can do that."