SEATTLE (AP) -- Ichiro Suzuki is ready for another run at a batting title.
The nine-time batting champion -- seven in Japan; two in the majors -- hit a pair of solo home runs Saturday to help the Seattle Mariners beat the Cleveland Indians 3-2.Hitting .385 in July, he has raised his batting average 22 points this month to .316. He is within range of league leader Johnny Damon of Boston, hitting .337 entering the day."To be able to do the things I do and win the title, that would be the best-case scenario," Suzuki said through an interpreter. "But worrying about what others think or what kind of numbers I need to put up, I really don't think that way. I want to be able to play my game."Suzuki's fourth-inning leadoff home run also broke a 75-year-old major-league record. That gave him 1,058 hits in his career, the most ever for a player in his first five big-league seasons, breaking the mark set by Paul Waner from 1926-30. Waner reached
1,057 hits in 747 games, while Suzuki has played 737 games."I didn't know about that record," said Suzuki, the defending AL batting champion who broke the single-season hit record last year with 262. "When I heard of this record I thought to myself, 'Man, there's a lot of records out there.'"The home run, his eighth this season and the first hit allowed by C.C. Sabathia (6-9), cut Cleveland's lead to 2-1 and was the longest of his career, a 428-foot shot off the glass windows of Safeco Field's right field second-deck restaurant. His previous
longest was a 424-foot shot Aug. 15 against the Yankees' Kevin Brown.After Mike Morse tied it at 2 with a leadoff home run in the fifth, Suzuki hit his second shot into the right field seats in the sixth to put the Mariners ahead. It was the third multihomer game of Suzuki's career and also the third time Sabathia has allowed three home runs."Ichiro is not a home run hitter," manager Mike Hargrove said. "His whole game is hitting it on the ground, keeping in on the line, taking the extra base, stealing and scoring runs. But he has good pull power."Getting base hits is not an easy thing to do. He makes it look easy sometimes, but it's not easy," Hargrove added. "If it was easy everyone would hit .300 or .400 and get 250 hits a year. Since he has been here in the States, not even counting what he did in Japan, he has been absolutely amazing."Sabathia, who has a career-high five straight losses, has had trouble with Suzuki, who is hitting .419 with two doubles, three triples and three home runs against him."With him, it's whatever he feels like that day," Sabathia said. "If he wants to take you to left and you throw a fastball away, he'll do that. You have to feel him out."Jason Dubois started the Indians' two-run rally in the third with a single just over second baseman Yuniesky Betancourt's reach. Grady Sizemore, on a 1-0 pitch from Mariners starter Ryan Franklin (6-11), hit a one-hop double against the right field wall and Ronnie Belliard followed with a two-run double into the left-center gap.Franklin would settle down, although the Indians continued to reach base. They left 11 on, at least one in every inning."The thing with Ryan is you know you're going to get the most of what he's got that day," Hargrove said. "He is as ready to pitch and compete as any I've ever been around."Ben Broussard defused a Cleveland rally in the sixth. He reached first on a one-out single then Casey Blake followed with a single to left. Broussard rolled around second and tried to take third but was thrown out easily."There was no reason. The play was in front of him, not behind him," Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. "It was just a very poor decision."Ron Villone took over for Franklin with two outs in the seventh and struck out Victor Martinez. J.J. Putz relieved Villone with two on and one out in the eighth, walked Blake to load the bases but struck out Dubois and Sizemore. Eddie Guardado picked up his 23rd consecutive save in the ninth.
There were no incidents after Friday's game, when Indians pitchers hit two batters and Seattle hit one, leading to five ejections. ... Suzuki is hitting .385 for July after a .243 June. He has the highest average among active players in July at .350.