Timely hit comes for Ichiro, not Mariners
Seattle shut out as outfielder ties club-record streak
SEATTLE -- Ichiro Suzuki kept his hitting streak alive with the first swing he took on the warmest evening of the year at Safeco Field, but the Mariners' impatience at the plate led to more postgame head-scratching.Ichiro extended his club record-tying streak to 25 games with a double to left-center in the first inning, and scooted to third base when the throw went to second, giving the Mariners an excellent opportunity to score the first run in their series opener against the Orioles on Monday night. But the game's only run scored in the top of the sixth inning as Baltimore left-hander Rich Hill and two relievers held the Mariners to two hits, sending Seattle and tough-luck lefty Jarrod Washburn to a 1-0 loss before 16,979 at Safeco Field. "It's an awful shame to squander a pitching performance by both Wash and [Chris] Jakubauskas," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "They give up one run on six hits and have nothing to show for it." But the Mariners have been there, done that. Ichiro's dash to third put him in prime position to score, and the Orioles obliged by playing the middle infielders back, conceding the run. A popup, strikeout and popup took care of that threat. "The whole tempo of the game is set when you don't score that run in the first inning," Wakamatsu said. "Offensively, it goes back to the same thing we have talked about all year -- fundamental baseball and not executing when we need to."
Shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt popped out to second base. Adrian Beltre struck out. Mike Sweeney popped out to first base. The same three batters made the final three outs of the game, each hitting a fly ball that would have scored Ichiro in the first inning."We'd like to see them do that in the first inning," Wakamatsu said. Aside from Ichiro's first-inning hit, the only other Mariners hit was Betancourt's single to left field in the third inning, advancing Ichiro to second with one out. It was the last time Seattle had a runner on base, as Orioles pitchers retired the final 20 batters they faced. "I don't know if we're going to see a better-pitched game all year," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "That was tremendous." The Mariners, meanwhile, lamented the run that was there for the taking, and they didn't take it. "When you get [Ichiro] on third with nobody out, you have to get him in somehow, and we didn't get it done, me included," Sweeney said. "It definitely set the tone, but it wasn't the deciding factor in the game. We only had two hits in the whole game, and when you swing the bats like that, you are not going to win many games." The Mariners' first 1-0 loss of the season took most of the luster off Ichiro's record-tying streak. The two longest hitting streaks in Ichiro's big league career might be identical in length, but there is one huge difference -- in runs scored. During his 25-game hit streak in '07, one more than the previous record he shared for former second baseman Joey Cora (1997), Ichiro scored 26 runs and did not score at least one run just six times during the streak. But Monday night's game was all too familiar to Ichiro, and the Mariners. He never scored. This was the 18th time in the 25 games that he didn't score, and he's scored just 10 runs during the streak. Adam Jones, the Mariners' first-round Draft choice in 2003 who was traded to the Orioles last season (along with four others, including All-Star reliever George Sherrill) for left-handed starter Erik Bedard, scored the game's only run. Jones hit a line drive to left field that sailed over Wladimir Balentien's head for a leadoff double, advanced to third when Nick Markakis singled sharply to center and romped home on a sacrifice fly by Aubrey Huff. Washburn, who surrendered two or fewer runs for the seventh time in his 10 starts this season but still fell to 3-4 on the season, was more irritated with the pitch he threw Markakis than the one to Jones. "I feel I should have made a better pitch to Markakis," he said. "I have been 'nails' against lefties this season, and with two lefties coming up [after Jones' hit], I could have gotten out of it without any runs. But I didn't do the job. I didn't make the pitches. "If I make the pitches, they don't score and we're still playing." He said the pitch to Jones was a splitter that was down in the strike zone. "It was not a bad pitch, but a decent pitch," he said. "He was out in front of a split with two strikes on him, on his front foot and happened to get the barrel of the bat on it and it carried over [Balentien's] head. "I wasn't real disappointed with the pitch," Washburn added. "Tip your hat to him."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.