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07/11/07 2:30 AM ET

Mariners All-Stars front and center

Ichiro snares MVP for winning AL, after Putz's shaky outing

SAN FRANCISCO -- Seattle relief pitcher J.J. Putz said that he will always remember his first All-Star Game, but not for the reasons you might think.

Minutes after the American League hung on for a 5-4 victory over the National League at AT&T Park on Tuesday night, Putz stood in front of his locker and discussed the bottom line.

No, not the two-run home run he allowed in the ninth inning to Alfonso Soriano that gave the game late-inning drama, but that the American League continued its dominance over the National League.

"It worked out ... we won," Putz said. "That's all that matters. We kept the streak alive."

The American League won thanks in large part to the contributions of Seattle's other All-Star representative, Ichiro Suzuki.

Ichiro was selected the MVP of the All-Star Game after collecting three hits, including a two-run, inside-the-park home run off Padres pitcher Chris Young in the fifth inning.

It was the first in All-Star Game history and the first for Ichiro in his career, seven years in the Major Leagues and nine in Japan.

"I thought it was going to go over the fence. I was bummed," said of the hit that raised his career average against Young to .429 in 21 at-bats with three home runs. "It's one I'll never forget. I was able to give it my all. I'm really happy."

Ichiro made big news before the game as well, as reports from various media outlets said the 33-year-old was close to agreeing to a five-year contract extension with the Mariners worth in upward of $100 million.

The announcement, it was reported, could come any day.

Ichiro -- who as of now could be a free agent following the season -- refused to talk about his contract or if a potential extension was in the works with the Mariners.

Ichiro, however, didn't mind talking about his performance in his seventh All-Star Game.

Ichiro, who was just 3-for-15 in his six previous All-Star Game appearances, had singles in the first and third innings before facing Young in the fifth inning.

With Brian Roberts on first base, Ichiro lined an 87 mph fastball into the air and toward the gap in right-center field as National League right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. gave chase.

Griffey appeared in good position to field the ball off the padded wall but the ball took a strange bounce and veered back toward the corner as Griffey gave chase.

All-Star Game Coverage

Griffey's throw back to the infield missed the cutoff man, allowing the speedy Ichiro to score standing up as the American League took a 2-1 lead that would stand up.

"In batting practice I got a chance to see some balls hit off that wall and I told myself that if it ever hit that corner, somebody would get an inside-the-parker," Minnesota's Torii Hunter said. "And guess who did it? Ichiro. If you make any mistake or something funny happens out there, Ichiro is going to hit an inside-the-parker."

National Baseball Hall of Fame vice president Jeff Idelson acquired the ball and one of Ichiro's hats that he will take it back to Cooperstown, N.Y., to become part of the museum's collection.

Ichiro's first hit came off another Padres pitcher -- National League starter Jake Peavy -- on a single to right to start the game. His second hit was a 2-2 curveball from Milwaukee's Ben Sheets that he dumped into left field in the third inning.

Putz entered the game in the ninth inning with the American League holding a 5-2 lead and got two quick outs before allowing a single to pinch-hitter Dmitri Young.

Putz then left a fastball over the outside half of the plate that the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano drove over the wall in right field. After Putz walked Milwaukee's J.J. Hardy, AL manager Jim Leyland went to his bullpen to get the Angels' Francisco Rodriguez to get the final out of the game.

"You always say if you want to get beat, you want to get beat away," Putz said of the pitch to Soriano. "He hit that one pretty good. But it worked out, we won. ... That's all that matters."

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