Ichiro gets to 2,500, spoils D-backs’ big game
PHOENIX – Ichiro Suzuki showed again Tuesday that he can do about anything he wants at the plate. This time it was enough to render one of the Diamondbacks’ best offensive games of the season moot.
Suzuki had four hits, including the 2,500th of his major league career, but it was his sacrifice fly in the eighth inning that started the Diamondbacks on the way to a 12-9, 10-inning loss, snapping their six-game winning streak at Chase Field.
Those who have played with Suzuki insist he could hit 25 home runs a year if he tried. After slapping the ball around all night, when Suzuki needed a fly ball in the eighth, it was there. He drove in Brendan Ryan to tie the game at 9-all, then capped a three-run 10th with a run-scoring double.
The D-backs had 14 hits, including home runs by Gerardo Parra, Aaron Hill and Paul Goldschmidt, but none after Miguel Montero’s tie-breaking single gave them a 9-8 lead in the sixth.
Seattle hit, too, getting 15, the biggest being Suzuki’s two singles and two doubles. His first inning single was No. 2,500, and he was at 2,503 after his 10th-ininng double. He reached 2,500 hits in 1,817 games. Only Hall of Famers Al Simmons, Ty Cobb and George Sisler needed fewer games.
“If you look at me now and look at me and you look at me when I first got here in 2001, if I said my first day that my goal is to get 2,500 hits, people would say that I was crazy. Now looking at it, things do come true,” Suzuki said through his interpreter.
“Two things come to mind. The love of the game that keeps me motivated to this day, and the criticism that came along with it.”
Suzuki did not play the first game of the series, and he said the off day was “tough for me. It was very regretful, because you want to go out there and perform.”
Suzuki, who has missed only two games this season, is hitting .265 with four homers, nine stolen bases and 25 RBIs, all numbers considerably below his career averages.
“You can sit and analyze Ichiro’s swing until you are blue in the face and you are never going to figure it out,” said D-backs shortstop Willie Bloomquist, who spent seven years with Suzuki in Seattle.
“He cues the ball off the end of the bat for a double down the line. There is no rhyme or reason for it. You try to play him opposite way a little bit assuming he is going to slap a ball in the hole, and it’s a 10-hopper up the middle that gets through.
“That’s just the element he brings to the game. You can’t cheat too much one way or the other with him, because he is that good, where he is able to find holes and figure out ways to get a hit. He hasn’t gotten 2,500 hits over here for nothing. He’s obviously a craftsman at work all the time when he is up there.”
While Suzuki finished off the Mariners’ tying and winning rallies, each was fueled by a walk. D-backs setup David Hernandez walked Ryan with one out in the eighth and John Jaso singled him to third before Suzuki’s’ game-tying fly to medium-deep right.
D-backs closer J.J. Putz (1-4) walked Justin Smoak and gave up a single to Dustin Ackley to open the 10th. After Ryan laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners, pinch-hitter Casper Wells singled to center field off Brad Ziegler to drive in two. Suzuki followed with a double.
“It was one of those games. They took advantage of those two walks. Ultimately, that’s what did us in,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said.
Putz threw a 1-2-3 ninth, retiring the side on 10 pitches, and was asked to pitch a second inning for the first time this season because the D-backs were down to two other relievers behind him, Ziegler and Josh Collmenter. Putz pitched one inning in the first game of the series Monday after not pitching on the six-game road trip the week before.
“We asked J.J. to go out there again. It was a tough task. You realize you might be in one of those long games, so you are trying to get as much out of your pitchers as you can,” Gibson said.
“They took advantage of those two walks. Ultimately, that’s what did us in.”
The D-backs had their fifth three-home run in the last 15 games, a sign that the bats are back. Hill also drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. He is in such a groove – he has 22 hits in his last 43 at-bats – that the Mariners opted to walk him intentionally to get to Justin Upton with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth.
A 1-0 pitch from Lucas Luetge sailed over Hill’s head with runners on first and second, and rather than let Hill hit, Mariners manager Eric Wedge had him walked. Upton struck out, one of three times. He heard boos after his swinging strikeout to open the last of the eighth.
Charlie Furbush (3-1) struck out four in two perfect innings for the victory, and Tom Wilhelmsen struck out the side for his fifth save.
Hill was halfway to his second consecutive cycle by the fourth inning, when his two-out home run off Seattle right-hander Erasmo Ramirez gave the D-backs a 5-2 lead. Parra homered three batters earlier, and it was evident Ramirez was fooling no one. The D-backs had two homers, three doubles, a triple and a single through four innings.
Daniel Hudson was unable to hold the lead, however, ending a streak of six straight quality starts by a rotation that included one Hudson’s best outings of the year, when he retired 16 of 17 batters in an 11-3 victory at Texas last Thursday.
Kyle Seager and Brendan Ryan hit three-run homers in a six-run Mariners fifth, the first off Hudson and the second off reliever Craig Breslow, for an 8-5 lead. Hudson was charged with seven runs, and his ERA jumped to 6.60.
“Make a couple of good pitches in an inning and then make a mistake, and all of a sudden there are three runs on the board,” Hudson said. “It’s just one of those things I’m going through. You have to dig deep and try to get out of it.”
The D-backs will take some positives from the way they are swinging the bats, Bloomquist said.
“That’s encouraging. Guys are continuing to battle and grind. It hasn’t been easy for any of us so far. It’s a long process, but hopefully this the start of us coming together as an offensive unit and putting up some runs to help the pitching staff.”
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