Royals 7, Mariners 3
SEATTLE (AP)—Ichiro Suzuki just keeps hitting, no matter what country he’s in.
Suzuki became the first player to reach 200 hits in each of his first four major league seasons when he sent the first pitch from reliever Jeremy Affeldt over the right-center fence in the ninth inning.
“In Japan, at about the 120th game, I had 201 hits,” Suzuki said through a translator. “To go at about the same pace and do the same thing over here, I didn’t imagine doing that.”
Suzuki had 210 hits in 130 games in Japan in 1994, the only time he had 200 hits in his native country.
Suzuki’s seventh homer of the season came in his 125th game and cut the Royals’ lead to 7-3. It also brought chants of “Ichiro! Ichiro!” from the Safeco Field crowd of 30,962.
The 30-year-old Suzuki played nine seasons in Japan with the Orix Blue Wave before coming to Seattle. He thinks he’s still improving.
“I’ve learned many things,” he said. “I feel like my skills have gone up and I’m very happy with the way I’ve progressed.”
The 2001 AL MVP and four-time All-Star has a shot at breaking the major league record of 257 hits set by George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns in 1920.
Suzuki had 242 hits in 2001, 208 in 2002 and 212 last season.
Suzuki has visited baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., to take in some of the game’s history, but he’s not thinking about catching Sisler.
It’s not impossible for Suzuki, who had 51 hits in May and 50 in July. The Mariners have 36 games left.
“At this point, I’m not going to think about that at all,” he said. “I think you have goals that you can see and that goal is just too far for me to see.”
He finished 1-for-5 and leads the AL with a .364 batting average. He went 0-for-11 after getting his 199th hit with a single on the first pitch of Tuesday night’s game against Tampa Bay.
Seattle manager Bob Melvin is amazed by what Suzuki has achieved during the Mariners’ horrendous season.
“This season is killing him,” Melvin said. “He has a way of putting it away at night, but it hurts him bad when we lose and we continue to go through stuff like this. He continues to come out the next day and prepares himself as well as anybody I’ve ever been around.”
Suzuki has earned the respect of his competition.
“The guy is unreal,” Kansas City manager Tony Pena said. “Not only is he a great hitter, but he’s a real good all-around player. He’s a good outfielder who can run and throw. He’s a natural.”
Affeldt said he wanted Suzuki to give him an autograph.
“Hopefully, he signs a bat for me,” the pitcher said.
The Mariners (46-80), trying to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1983, dropped their fourth straight and sixth in seven games.
Coming off a 21-6 loss Wednesday night in Anaheim, the Royals entered with the worst ERA in the AL at 5.18. But they got a solid start from left-hander Brian Anderson (3-11) in the opener of a five-game series between the two worst teams in the AL.
Anderson earned his second victory in August after going three months without a win. He pitched six innings and gave up two runs, six hits and five walks.
“It was a tough game,” Anderson said. “There was nothing pretty about it.”
Kansas City (45-80) ended a three-game losing streak, jumping on Jamie Moyer (6-9) for a 4-0 lead in the first.
The Royals acquired Nunez from Florida for right-hander Rudy Seanez on July 31.
“I feel very good because I’ve always dreamed about getting a grand slam in the big leagues and now I have two of them,” Nunez said.
It was the 35th homer allowed this season, most in the AL, by Moyer, an All-Star and a 21-game winner last season at age 40. That tied the club record for homers given up, set by right-hander Scott Bankhead in 1987, when the Mariners played their home games in the Kingdome.
Moyer lost his seventh straight decision in 12 starts and 13 appearances since his last win on June 18. He pitched 5 1-3 innings, allowing six runs— five earned—on six hits and a season-high five walks.
Seattle scored its first run on Bret Boone’s RBI fielder’s choice.
In the sixth, the Royals got two runs for a 6-1 lead, chasing Moyer. Aaron Guiel singled in a run, and three-time Gold Glove right fielder Suzuki’s throwing error on the play allowed a second run to score. It was Suzuki’s third error of the season.
Then he threw out Guiel at the plate on a fly ball to end the inning.
Rookie Jose Lopez had a run-scoring single in the Seattle sixth. Kansas City’s Matt Stairs had an RBI single in the seventh.
Suzuki is hitting .458 since the All-Star break. … The Royals hit their seventh grand slam of the season, tying a club record. … Suzuki grounded into his sixth double play of the season in the second, twice as many as last season.