08/19/09 11:39 PM ET
Ichiro draws closer to 200 hits
Outfielder's decisive long ball makes winner of righty Snell
By Jim Street / MLB.com
He added two more hits, including a decisive two-run home run in the fifth inning, in the Mariners' 3-1 victory over the Tigers in front of 33,194 at Comerica Park.
Ichiro needs just 19 more hits to become the first player in the 133-year history of Major League Baseball to have nine consecutive 200-hit seasons and the first to do it in the first nine years of his MLB career.
Hall of Fame outfielder Willie Keeler (1894-1901) is the only other player to have as many as eight in a row and the all-time leader is Pete Rose with 10, which came during a 24-year career.
As Ichiro counted down, there also was some counting up on this night.
The Mariners won their 62nd game of the season, surpassing last season's total win output, and Snell notched his first win as a member of the team.
"It's fun to finally get my first win with this team, but if I was that excited, I would be jumping all over the place," Snell said. "I was afraid they would put me in a trash can, but they didn't do it."
His third win of the season -- and the first since June 17 -- occurred in his fourth start with the team that acquired him from the Pirates, along with shortstop Jack Wilson on July 29.
A routine bullpen session with pitching coach Rick Adair after his previous start obviously was successful. Though Snell did not have pinpoint control in the early innings, he made key pitches when he had to.
And most of them were down and in the strike zone.
The Tigers have a powerful lineup that relies more on hits than walks.
"They are a very aggressive team," Snell said. "Anything near the plate they will swing at so I kept my sinker as low and near the plate as I could. They kept pounding them in the ground or popping them up
"I didn't want to throw them anything straight, because they would probably crush it."
Seattle took a three-run lead in the fifth inning on a rally ignited by the bottom of the lineup.
With two outs and none on, No. 8 hitter Michael Saunders slapped a single into left field, stole second and romped home on Josh Wilson's single into shallow left field. Ichiro then hit Justin Verlander's next pitch into the seats in right field for his eighth home run of the season.
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said the fourth and fifth innings were the key frame for Snell. A botched double play in the fourth inning kept a runner on base in a scoreless game and an ensuing single put runners on first and second with one out.
Snell induced another grounder and this one was turned for an inning-ending double play.And after the Mariners took their 3-0 lead, Snell worked a perfect bottom of the fifth.
"You are looking to see how he would react [to getting a lead] and he went out and had a nice inning," Wakamatsu said.
Snell's shutout bid ended one out into the sixth when Carlos Guillen ended an 11-pitch at-bat with a solo home run to right field, his fifth of the season. The first of three pitching changes Wakamatsu made came two batters later, after Snell walked Aubrey Huff.
Right-hander Sean White surrendered a single but retired Brandon Inge on a grounder to first base.
White also pitched a scoreless seventh, Mark Lowe had a spiffy 1-2-3 eighth to erase the bad taste of Tuesday night's outing, and closer David Aardsma notched his 28th save with a scoreless ninth.
Lowe was as upbeat after this game as he was downcast 24 hours earlier.
"Some nights you don't have your best stuff," Lowe said. "I watched some video of previous games this year when I did well and how I attacked hitters. I went into today with the mindset to attack the hitters, use my fastball to get ahead and then use my slider."
It worked and he struck out two of the three batters he faced.
As for the 62nd win of the season, Lowe said it was a big deal.
"It absolutely means something," Lowe said, "and even bigger than that we still have a shot at making the playoffs. Guys in this room believe that. There are guys here who have played a long, long time and never had that experience and it would be nice to not only do that for ourselves but for them. You never know when the last day is."
The Mariners (62-58) remained 12 games behind the Angels in the AL West and 6 1/2 behind in the Wild Card.
The three-game series ends with a Thursday afternoon game and features a pitching matchup of former Mariners left-hander Jarrod Washburn taking on lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.