Outfielder Ichiro Suzuki has won games - and fans - for the Seattle Mariners with his arm, his glove, his bat and his speed in , but breaking up double plays with aggressive slides? Not the most often-used arrow in his quiver.
It was Ichiro's hard slide into Athletics shortstop Chad Pennington that forced Pennington into a throwing error that allowed one run to score and set up a second in the 10th inning of the Mariners 4-2 victory.
“That play was the difference-maker, and Ichiro went in hard, aggressive, and broke that play up,” manager Eric Wedge said. “I told him afterward, ‘Way to play the game!’ That’s what we want to do here.”
With one out and two on, Brendan Ryan's slow roller toward second base appeared to be perfect for a rally-killing double play. Instead, Ichiro arrived at second and slid hard - perhaps a bit out of the baseline - and undid Pennington.
The throw skidded wildly, Franklin Gutierrez scored and Ryan took second base.
“When I saw the ball hit, I had an image of breaking up the double play,” Ichiro said through his interpreter. “That was all I had in mind.”
That the win went to Brandon League instead of Felix Hernandez was one of those baseball-isn’t-fair moments.
“That’s as good as I’ve seen Felix this season, and that’s saying a lot,” Wedge said. “He had fantastic command and everything was working.”
Hernandez struck out 10 batters in eight innings – the 14th time in his career he’d done so, the fifth time this season – and allowed five hits, including a home run to Kurt Suzuki.
What stopped him from pitching the ninth? Too many pitches, 122 of them.
League came in to close and gave up a leadoff single and a sacrifice bunt. Wedge had the Mariners infield playing in and Coco Crisp hit a little pop up just beyond the infield.
Rookie Carlos Peguero charged, slid and had the ball bang off his glove: RBI single.
Another rookie, Dustin Ackley, had an impact on his 15th big-league game. He singled and scored, then launched his third home run over the center field fence.
“I don’t know if that’s all I have, but it was enough,” Ackley said. “(Monday) I thought I took too many good pitches. Tonight I wanted to come out more aggressive.”