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11/12/09 6:00 PM EST

Ichiro claims third Silver Slugger Award

Honor caps Mariners star's ninth straight 200-hit season

The hits and the awards keep coming for Seattle right fielder Ichiro Suzuki.

The one-time Pacific League legend in Japan has already evolved into a Major League hero and he's showing no signs of slowing down.

On Thursday, the nine-time All-Star won a Silver Slugger Award as the top offensive player at his position in the American League. Ichiro also won the award in 2001 and 2007.

It's already been quite a week.

On Tuesday, Ichiro, 36, became the first Major League Player to win the AL Gold Glove in each of his first nine seasons when he was honored with the award. He's also the only player in Major League history to have nine consecutive seasons with at least 200 hits. He had been tied with Hall of Fame outfielder Willie Keeler (1894-1901) at eight in a row.

The Silver Slugger Awards have been given annually to the best offensive player at each position as selected by the Major League Baseball managers and coaches since 1980. Here's the only rule: Managers and coaches are not allowed to vote for a player on their own team.

Here's why Ichiro proved to be an easy choice: He hit .352, with 11 home runs and 46 RBIs. His batting average was second in the AL to Minnesota's Joe Mauer, who also won a Silver Slugger Award, and he led the Major Leagues with 225 hits, 13 hits ahead of fellow Silver Slugger Award winner Derek Jeter.

The Silver Slugger Awards are given to the players deemed to be the best offensive performers at their positions, voted on by Major League managers and coaches.
1B M. Teixeira, Yankees 39 122 .292
2B Aaron Hill, Blue Jays 36 108 .286
3B Evan Longoria, Rays 33 113 .281
SS Derek Jeter, Yankees 18 66 .334
OF Jason Bay, Red Sox 36 119 .267
OF Torii Hunter, Angels 22 90 .299
OF Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners 11 46 .352
C Joe Mauer, Twins 28 96 .365
DH Adam Lind, Blue Jays 35 114 .305

In one of his more remarkable feats of 2009, Ichiro went hitless in consecutive games only once the entire season (Sept. 26-27 at Toronto), ending a streak of 180 games without back-to-back hitless games. Furthermore, he became the second-fastest Major Leaguer to reach 2,000 hits on Sept. 6 against the A's in Oakland.

"It's not a fluke that a guy like that has consistency in his game," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said this summer. "He's so strong mentally that you see the exact same approach day in and day out with him. Even if he does struggle a little bit, he seems to find a way to get either an infield hit, hit the ball the other way or pull the ball."

Angels' center fielder Torii Hunter and Boston left fielder Jason Bay also earned Silver Slugger hardware in the American League. Dodgers teammates Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp along with Milwaukee's Ryan Braun won the award for outfielders in the National League.

Other 2009 AL Silver Sluggers are: Mark Teixeira, first base; Aaron Hill, second base; Jeter, shortstop; Mauer, catcher; and Evan Longoria, third base. Adam Lind was honored at the DH spot.

National League winners are: Albert Pujols, first base; Chase Utley, second base; Hanley Ramirez, shortstop; Ryan Zimmerman, third base and Carlos Zambrano, pitcher.

Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.