SEATTLE -- Extra innings gave Ichiro Suzuki another chance to extend his 27-game hitting streak.
The late misadventures of teammate Wladimir Balentien ensured the superstar wouldn't get any more than that.The Minnesota Twins ended Suzuki's team-record hitting streak and took advantage of Balentien's two 10th-inning miscues in left field to beat the Mariners 2-1 on Friday night.Pinch-hitter Ken Griffey Jr. fouled out against closer Joe Nathan before Suzuki -- with the crowd of 35,808 of chanting, pleading "Eee-chee-ro!" -- struck out for the final out, ending the AL's longest hitting streak this season and sixth-longest streak of the decade. It was three games short of the longest in the majors this season, by Washington's Ryan Zimmerman.Suzuki dressed quickly, spoke to the Japanese media pack, then offered only one other comment on his way out the door."It's only natural to want to have good results," he said through his interpreter, when asked if was ready to start a new streak Saturday.Francisco Liriano pitched six strong innings to perhaps save his place in the rotation and help the Twins win for the fourth time in five games."He needed that. The team needed that," manager Ron Gardenhire said.Matt Gurrier (2-0) allowed one hit in 1 2/3 innings, and Nathan got his 11th save in 13 chances.Felix Hernandez allowed one run and struck out seven in seven innings, and Mike Sweeney homered for the Mariners, who lost for the third time in eight games and had just four hits -- plus two bad plays at the worst possible time from a 24-year-old trying to replace former RBI leader Raul Ibanez in left field.Ibanez left as a free agent and is now starring for the Philadelphia Phillies."I don't feel good right now," Balentien said.Recently hot Joe Mauer, left at the plate in the top of the ninth when Denard Span was thrown out trying to steal, doubled off Mark Lowe (0-3) leading off the 10th. Balentien took a circling path to the ball before it fell on the warning track by his side. After an intentional walk to Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel hit a drive that center fielder Franklin Gutierrez leaped to catch in the heel of his glove at the top of the wall. Mauer advanced to third.Matt Tolbert, who entered as a pinch-runner in the eighth, then tried to execute a suicide squeeze bunt. But Seattle rookie manager Don Wakamatsu ordered a pitchout, and Mauer became the second out after a short rundown. Tolbert, batting .179, then hit a liner on which Balentien first came in, then ran back. The ball smacked off his glove for an error."That is a play I should ... I have to make, and I have no excuse not to," said Balentien, who is playing more for his bat than his glove.Seattle's other left fielder, defensive whiz Endy Chavez, watched from the bench."With a guy like that, you are trying to find out what you really have," Wakamatsu said. "These are things he has to work on, a play like that in a tight situation. As we go forward, we will make those adjustments."Liriano, the former rising star who at 2-7 was in danger of falling out of Minnesota's rotation, seemingly earned a reprieve. Gardenhire said after Liriano allowed four runs in four innings at Tampa Bay last weekend that the left-hander had to trust the pitches called by catcher Mauer more.Using sinking fastballs, Liriano tamed the AL's lowest scoring team as if it was his wondrous, 12-3 season of 2006 again -- before ligament replacement surgery in his elbow. He allowed three hits and one run in six innings, with five strikeouts and four walks. Sixty of his 101 pitches were strikes, his most in more than a month."I think he was listening to the catcher," said Gardenhire, who pulled his hamstring during batting practice and didn't want to use the dugout steps during the game. "Maybe he saw the finger down [for the sign] and he threw it. It may be as simple as that."
Twins OF Michael Cuddyer, sidelined since Sunday by a sprained right index finger, took batting practice Friday. He said he may play Saturday. ... Seattle LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith, on the DL with tightness in pitching elbow for almost two months, allowed 14 hits and 12 earned runs in 4 2/3 innings in his third and final rehab start with Triple-A Tacoma. He is scheduled to return and start Thursday at Baltimore.