Tony Gwynn: Rating baseball’s best hitters
Seattle Mariners manager Mike Hargrove counts on two guarantees in life.
“Taxes and Ichiro getting base hits are pretty good bets,” Hargrove said.
The deadline to file federal taxes has come and passed, but Ichiro Suzuki’s hitting hasn’t arrived yet.
Ichiro looks to overcome his early-season struggles when the Mariners (6-9) attempt to even their three-game series with the Texas Rangers on Wednesday at Safeco Field.
Ichiro’s bat typically warms as the summer months come. As much as the right fielder hasn’t hit at his typically torrid rate throughout his six-year career in April, Ichiro’s start this season is particularly glaring.
After going 0-for-4 with a walk and an RBI groundout in the series-opener on Tuesday, Ichiro’s average dropped to .177 with 11 hits in 62 at-bats this season. It’s the worst 15-game start in his career.
Ichiro has never hit lower than .243 in the season’s first month. Entering 2006, he was a career .301 April hitter. It’s the worst month statistically for the .329 career hitter despite batting .356 in April last season.
The Mariners right fielder has one hit in 20 at-bats over the last five games after starting with six hits in his first four games.
Still, Ichiro has scored 13 times, tied for seventh-most in baseball.
“You have to remember that it’s early,” Hargrove said. “A lot of guys hitting .400 now, come September they won’t be anywhere near that.”
Ichiro’s previous encounters with Texas starter Kevin Millwood suggest Wednesday won’t be the time he breaks out of his slump. He is 1-for-8 with two walks and two strikeouts against Millwood.
The Rangers (6-8) signed Millwood to a five-year contract worth $60 million in the offseason. Millwood looks to build off his first win as a Ranger from his last start, a victory at Oakland last Friday in which he yielded two runs in seven innings.
Millwood is 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA in three career starts against Seattle.
Mariners left-hander Jamie Moyer is seeking his first win despite allowing no more than three runs and pitching at least five innings in each of his three starts this season.
Moyer, 43, is 14-6 with a 4.88 ERA in 34 career appearances against Texas, but has lost three of his last four decisions against the Rangers.
Both teams might could use significant innings out of their starters after each bullpen pitched the final four innings Tuesday. Four Texas relievers throw one inning each, with Francisco Cordero recording his second save in three opportunities. The Mariners used three relief pitchers.
Designated hitter Phil Nevin homered Tuesday for the second time in three games. He has five RBIs in that stretch. Ten of his 14 RBIs this season have come with two outs.
Tuesday’s crowd of 17,927 was the smallest at Safeco since it opened in July, 1999.