video thumbnail

SEA@OAK: Ichiro singles to first, breaks hit record

OAKLAND -- Jason Vargas provided a second straight night of outstanding pitching for the Mariners and Ichiro Suzuki broke the franchise's all-time hits record as Seattle topped Oakland, 5-2, on Saturday to continue its strong start to the season at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

Vargas followed Felix Hernandez's complete-game dominance on Opening Night with a solid 6 2/3 innings of his own, allowing just five hits and a walk before turning a 2-1 lead over to his bullpen.

"He's a pretty tough act to follow," said Vargas, who has stepped into the No. 2 spot in the rotation this season behind Hernandez. "But to be behind somebody who is going to go out and compete every time out and give everything he has, you definitely don't want to go out the next day and be the complete opposite. It definitely gives you something to strive toward and feed off of."

Ichiro broke Edgar Martinez's franchise record for career hits with his 2,248th, fittingly reaching base twice on infield singles, including the game-winner. He drove in the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth with a ground ball to second to break a 2-2 tie against A's reliever Brian Fuentes.

Oakland first baseman Daric Barton tried to throw out Jack Wilson at the plate, but all runners were safe.

Ichiro earlier tied Martinez's record when he grounded to Barton in the third inning and beat everyone to the bag.

Seattle broke the game open against Fuentes as pinch-hitter Miguel Olivo scored on a wild pitch that advanced Ichiro to second. He stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly by Chone Figgins.

Oakland had tied the game against Chris Ray in the eighth as Seattle's new setup man gave up three singles, including a run-scoring shot to right field by Josh Willingham.

Seattle, which won just two games in nine tries in Oakland last season, will attempt to sweep the series on Sunday with Doug Fister taking on Gio Gonzalez in a 1:05 p.m. PT finale.

"This year is a new year," Vargas said of the 2-0 start. "I don't think we can look back on the past and dwell on it. It's definitely nice to see us pull together and score some runs late. There's a difference in this team and the way they want to go about winning. It's definitely a comforting feeling out there on the mound."

The Mariners got to A's reliever Craig Breslow for the second straight night, this time pushing across the go-ahead run in the seventh to take a 2-1 lead after Brett Anderson held Seattle largely in check for six innings.

The speedy Brendan Ryan led off the seventh with a double into the left-field corner off Breslow, then moved to third on a base hit by Jack Wilson and scored on a sacrifice fly to shallow center field by Michael Saunders.

The A's managed a run on Vargas in the bottom of the third on a single by Cliff Pennington, a double by Barton and a run-scoring ground ball by David DeJesus. But the left-hander otherwise kept Oakland off balance in going two outs into the seventh inning on 92 pitches.

Vargas stranded runners in four of the first five innings, and the A's were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position.

The Mariners didn't capitalize on the few opportunities they got against Anderson either until the sixth, when Milton Bradley singled with two outs, stole second and scored on Jack Cust's base hit to right.

Young first baseman Justin Smoak extended his hit streak to 12 games over two seasons, the third-longest current run in the Major Leagues, with a fourth-inning single.

But the Mariners couldn't mount much offense against Anderson, who allowed five hits over six innings.

Though Seattle drew seven walks in Friday's opener, they Mariners also struck out 14 times. That pace slowed on Saturday, but Anderson recorded five strikeouts and walked just one before being lifted after throwing 108 pitches.

"They got my pitch count up pretty quick. I tried to get ahead of them in the count and make them put balls in play, but they're going to try to get into hitters' counts because they know that if we get ahead, odds are, we're going to do pretty good."

As in Friday's opener, the Mariners took advantage of a more-efficient outing by their own starter, with Vargas keeping the bullpen seated until Jamey Wright came on to get the final out in the seventh and Ray then gave up the lead in the eighth. Comments