07/13/2002 10:45 pm ET
M's star has first two-homer game
By Jim Street / MLB.com
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- There probably was a one-in-a-million chance that the throw Ichiro Suzuki made in the bottom of the tenth inning Saturday night would have prolonged the Mariners' game against Tampa Bay.
But he made it anyway, which explains why he is one of the best players in the game.
You just never know.
With the bases full of Devil Rays and none out, the Mariners' outfield played a little more shallow than normal. It didn't help because Ben Grieve slapped a hard single past a diving second baseman Bret Boone.
But instead of conceding the decisive run, Ichiro sprinted towards the infield, fielded the ball and came up throwing. His throw arrived too late to prevent a 4-3 Mariners loss, but he knew the only chance his team had to keep playing was to get the out at home.
"You never know what's going to happen," Ichiro explained. "The runner might have tripped and fallen down or something."
Steve Cox, the runner at third base, made it home safely, giving the Devil Rays the extra-inning victory before 15,840 at Tropicana Field. Reliever John Halama, the fifth pitcher manager Lou Piniella used, absorbed the loss, although it wasn't entirely his fault.
Shortstop Carlos Guillen mishandled Cox's routine grounder for an error. A single and intentional walk put Halama and the Mariners in a predicament that would end a three-game Seattle winning streak.
And spoil a nice night for Ichiro.
He already had accomplished another personal Major League first by hitting two home runs in the same game. Ichiro hit the first pitch of the game halfway up in the right field seats for his third home run of the season -- all of them leading off a game.
His fourth home run started the third inning and went to almost the same place. It was his first multiple-homer game in his Mariners' career, although he did it a few times when he played for the Orix Blue Wave in Japan.
After returning to the visiting dugout after his second trot around the bases, Ichiro said several teammates asked, "How did you do that?"
Whatever he did didn't catch on.
The Mariners didn't score again, but it wasn't because they left a lot of runners on base or get a hit with a runner in scoring position. They didn't get many runners on base in the first place.
Seattle stranded five runners, had three would-be base stealers thrown out at second base and another nailed at home. D-Rays rookie catcher Toby Hall twice nailed Mark McLemore, third on the team in stolen bases with 14 and first in being caught -- 11 times.
"The report on him was that he is not accurate," said Piniella of Hall. "He was accurate tonight."
If the Mariners haven't been having so much darn trouble scoring runs, third base coach Dave Myers might have held John Olerud at third base in the third inning, instead of having him to try score on a single to left field by Bret Boone.
Jason Conti's throw nailed Olerud at the plate for the final out of the inning.
"With two outs and the way we have been struggling to score runs, I thought it was a good gamble," Myers said. "[Conti] has an average arm and [Olerud] got a good jump. Give them credit. They did a nice job."
The Mariners would get only one more runner into scoring position. Olerud, who hit a solo homer in the first inning -- his 16th -- of the season, reached second with two outs in the eighth inning.
Afterwards, Piniella lamented his team's sporadic offense.
"It gets down to run production," he said. "You can't continue to score two or three runs a game and expect to win. You just can't do it."
The Mariners' loss didn't cost them to lose any of their three-game lead in the AL West. The Angels also lost Saturday night. Third-place Oakland, however, won and moved within four games of Seattle.
Jim Street covers the Mariners for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of MLB or its clubs.