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Archive for Monday, August 30, 2004

Suzuki gets three hits as M’s rally past K.C.

August 30, 2004

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— Ichiro Suzuki has plenty to play for, even if the Seattle Mariners don't.

Suzuki homered, scored three times and got three more hits, leading Seattle past the Kansas City Royals, 5-4, Sunday. The four-time All-Star sparked the Mariners' offense with a fourth-inning drive off Jimmy Gobble.

"We weren't looking too good against Gobble, and then he throws him a breaking ball, and (Suzuki) hits it into the right-field seats, and it kind of energized everybody," Seattle manager Bob Melvin said. "We've seen him do it quite a few times. I talk about him every day, and you try to come up with more superlatives."

Suzuki, who is chasing George Sisler's major-league record for hits in a season, finished 3-for-4 and has 209 hits. Sisler had 257 hits for the St. Louis Browns in 1920.

The last-place Mariners strung together four singles with two outs in the seventh inning to rally past Kansas City. They won four of five games in a series between the two worst teams in the AL.

With Seattle trailing 4-3 in the seventh, Suzuki singled under the glove of third baseman Desi Relaford, chasing Gobble. Randy Winn, Bret Boone and Raul Ibanez then singled off reliever Dennys Reyes (3-7) to give the Mariners a 5-4 lead.

"I didn't hit my ball very hard," Ibanez said. "It just happened to find the hole."

Ron Villone (5-4) pitched three scoreless innings for the win.

Villone, who had been scheduled to start Tuesday in Toronto, entered with the bases loaded and none out in the seventh. He induced a double-play grounder from Matt Stairs, scoring the last run charged to Seattle starter Ryan Franklin. A walk and a hit batsman later, John Buck flied out to end the inning.

"We took him out (of the rotation) and had him available for this game for that situation right there exactly," Melvin said of Villone. "I had no hesitations about letting him go out for the ninth inning. This guy brings a lot to the table, he's real flexible -- start him, relieve him late, pitch him situationally."

Villone gave up one hit, walked one, hit one batter and struck out one.

"It doesn't even matter any more -- I like starting, I like relieving. I like pitching," Villone said. "Once I got loose, I felt really good."

Relaford put Kansas City on the board in the third inning with a solo shot, his second homer in three games against his former team. The Royals loaded the bases after that on singles by Joe Randa and Stairs and a walk to Abraham Nunez, but Franklin got Aaron Guiel on a grounder.

Buck hit his seventh home run, a solo shot to left, in the fourth.

Suzuki's eighth home run cut Kansas City's lead to 2-1 in the bottom half. It was Seattle's first hit.

Gobble, who retired his first nine batters, echoed the sentiments of most AL pitchers when he called Suzuki a "tough out."

"I threw him a curveball down and away, actually a pretty good pitch," Gobble said. "If he doesn't swing at it, it's probably a ball."

Randa's home run in the fifth extended Kansas City's lead to 3-1.

The Mariners scored two unearned runs in the sixth to tie it. After Suzuki singled, Royals shortstop Angel Berroa overthrew first base on a grounder for an error, sending Suzuki to third and Bret Boone to second. Ibanez grounded out to drive in Suzuki, and Boone scored on Bucky Jacobsen's single.

"That was a routine play," Royals manager Tony Pena said. "He just threw the ball way too high to first base, a wild throw. He had plenty of time to throw the ball."

The loss capped a frustrating 1-7 road trip for Pena and the Royals. Kansas City lost the final four to Seattle after establishing leads. The Royals left 11 on base Sunday.

"We kind of found a way to lose a ballgame," Pena said. "It doesn't matter against whom you play, you make errors you lose the ballgame."

Franklin threw 121 pitches in six-plus innings, giving up four earned runs, nine hits and four walks.

Gobble, recalled from Triple-A Omaha before the game, gave up four runs -- two earned -- and five hits in 6 2-3 innings.

Notes: Kansas City has suited up 55 players this year, breaking last year's club record of 53. In 2002, Cleveland and San Diego used 59 players, the major league record. ... Suzuki is 70-for-172, a .407 average, against left-handed pitchers, which leads the AL. He has hit five of his eight home runs against lefties. ... Jamie Moyer will pitch for the Mariners on Tuesday instead of Villone.

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