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April 2, 2011 at 9:40 PM

Ichiro makes his record-setting hit count for more than just milestone in M’s win

Ichiro has never really been about the distance on his hits. Tonight, he set a new franchise record with his 2,247th and 2,248th hits, surpassing by one the previous mark held by Edgar Martinez.
More important to the short term, his second infield single of the ninth, against Oakland A’s closer Brian Fuentes, helped the Mariners score three runs to key a 5-2 victory.
Yes, that’s right. Your Seattle Mariners are 2-0.
Back to that in a moment.
“I broke his record, when you look at the numbers that’s a fact,” Ichiro said of his former teammate Martinez. “But he’s a hero back in Seattle. He’s my hero as well. When you look at his existence, he’s a lot bigger than I am — being a great human being as well. So, that’s how I look at it.”
With runners at the corners and one out, Ichiro chopped a ball up the first base line. A’s first baseman Daric Barton was pretty shallow when he cut it off, but wasn’t going to get Ichiro at first base.
So, Barton threw home. It was a horrible throw and Jack Wilson made it home safely with the go-ahead run. Moments later, Ichiro was credited with an infield hit that thrust him into the record books yet again.
“I wasn’t thinking about my base hit, I wanted that run,” Ichiro said. “That’s what was more on my mind. I wasn’t worried about the hit. We needed that run.”
Brandon League closed out the ninth 1-2-3 for the save. Your undefeated M’s go for the sweep tomorrow. The A’s? They’ll be wondering what hit them if they lose again. Like we wrote before the opener, it’s easier to sneak up on teams than be favored. Oakland and its terrible-looking defense are quickly being reminded of that.
Anyhow, M’s starter Jason Vargas pitched well enough to get the win today, going 6 1/3 innings and allowing just a run on five hits. He also struck out six while walking just one and saw his team take a 2-1 lead intoi the eighth.
In the end, Chris Ray blew the save. But Ray still managed to get out of a tight spot with runners on first and second with only one out. That set the stage for the ninth, where the M’s pressured the A’s into making mistakes for a second straight night.
Vargas took it all in with some interesting observations. He was asked whether seeing all of these add-on runs helps take pressure off Seattle’s pitching staff, knowing they may not have to hold opponents to a run or no runs in order to win the game.
“I think there’s a difference in this team and the way they want to go about winning,” Vargas said. “And it’s definitely a comfortable feeling being out there on the mound.”


Naturally, I asked Vargas if he could elaborate on what he meant by different.
“I think just the intensity throught the entire game,” he said. “There’s no giving up. Even in spring training, there were guys playing hard the whole time. That’s all we can ask for out of them. If we score runs, we score runs. If we don’t, we don’t. We’ll pitch and keep guys in the game.”
Vargas was asked about Ichiro’s milestone and had yet another insightful tidbit to offer about why the Japanese leadoff star has been so consistent.
“I don’t think he’s ever as concerned by his results as he is about the process of getting there,” Vargas said.
Sort of a metaphor for this entire team. It really is about the process for the M’s this rebuilding year.
We saw that process once again tonight, with the M’s forcing Brett Anderson to throw 108 pitches over six innings. Even during a strikeout in the sixth, Chone Figgins forced Anderson to throw seven pitches.
That’s the process. Even without the results.
And the process this time led to the result of Anderson leaving the game and left-hander Craig Breslow and his juicy looking pitches being served up for the M’s to feast on for a second straight night.
And the process continued in the ninth, when Miguel Olivo got the pinch-hit single to put runners at the corners, then took third on that errant throw home by Barton during Ichiro’s clinching hit. Olivo then scored an important add-on run during a wild-pitch by Fuentes.
That’s the process. That’s part of the pressure.
By my count, the A’s have made a good 10 fielding miscues the first two games. There were five errors last night and what should have been a sixth on a terrible Cliff Pennington throw home.
Then tonight, the error, the wild pitch and two more botched plays by Kevin Kouzmanoff that didn’t result in errors but gave Seattle a double and an extra out as a result.
That’s all a result of the process. Hey, it’s a learning thing. So are things like Michael Saunders and Jack Wilson getting down bunts when they’ve had to this series.
The M’s won’t win any pennants. But they sure aren’t embarrassing themselves out there.
They have, however, embarrassed the A’s. Big-time. Oakland has not looked good in losing these first two games. A lot of questions being raised already about why they were such a trendy pre-season pick. So far, we’ve seen little offense and zero defense out of them. They don’t look ready for prime time.
Hey, it’s early. And frankly, it isn’t the M’s problem.

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins

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