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07/29/08 9:03 PM ET
Guardado happy to be there for Ichiro
Former teammate nearly allows historic hit on Monday night
By Jim Street / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Too much knowledge can be a handicap. Just ask Eddie Guardado. When the Rangers reliever entered Monday night's game against the Mariners in the top of the ninth inning, he had no idea that he was the first pitcher Seattle right fielder Ichiro Suzuki faced while needing just one more hit to reach the 3,000-hit club. "I knew he was close, but I swear I did not know he was that close," the former Mariners closer said prior to Tuesday night's game. "I'm glad I didn't know, because it would have put more pressure on me and I might have tried to do too much, left a pitch over the middle of the plate, and he would have [gotten a hit]." Guardado avoided being a footnote to history by retiring Ichiro on a fly ball to left field that was deep enough to score Seattle's final run in its 7-5 victory at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. "I wanted to stay hard and away from him, hoping he would hit a grounder or a shallow popup," Guardado said of Ichiro's ninth-inning at-bat. "There was a base open, but I never thought about walking him. Not when it's left-on-left. You have to get your outs when you can." It was the fifth time Guardado had faced Ichiro -- and the fifth time he got the Mariners' hit machine out. While some might downplay Ichiro's 3,000-hit status because 1,278 of the hits occurred when he played for the Orix Blue Wave from 1992-2000, Guardado said it doesn't matter. A hit is a hit, period. "That is a great accomplishment," he said. "It doesn't matter if it's here or India. That's a lot of hits. You know what? He's done some things in this game that a lot of guys can only wish they could do." Guardado spent three seasons (2004-'06) with the Mariners, and learned appreciate Ichiro's ability. "I saw how he went about his business and prepared for the game every day," Guardado said. "We talked a lot when I was there, but not too much about baseball. I went to dinner with him a few times and we usually ate sushi, which is not, uh, my favorite. "But he picked up the check, so I pretty much ate what he ordered." Ichiro would collect the historic hit in his first at-bat on Tuesday night -- a single to left-center field off Rangers starter Luis Mendoza. "I was teammates with [Paul] Molitor and [Dave] Winfield in Minnesota when they got their 3,000th hits," he said, "and we were the opposing team when Eddie Murray and Cal [Ripken Jr.] got theirs. Those are some classy guys."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.