OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Had it not been for a crazy bounce, Ichiro Suzuki would have added another hit to his astonishing total.
Suzuki had two hits to move within three of tying the season record, and the Seattle Mariners pounded Oakland starter Tim Hudson in a 7-2 victory Tuesday night that dropped the Athletics into a first-place tie with Anaheim. The Angels won 8-2 at Texas.
In his second at-bat, Suzuki hit a sharp liner that went off Hudson’s back and bounced in front of shortstop Bobby Crosby, who had to make a tough play to get Suzuki at first. Had Hudson not gotten in the way, it would’ve been a line drive up the middle.
“Of course when that ball hit Hudson, he acted like it didn’t even hit him. He didn’t show any pain,” Suzuki said. “Even though he’s the enemy, he’s a great pitcher and someone I really like.”
Oakland dropped out of sole possession of first place for the first time in 54 days, since the team was a half-game behind Texas on Aug. 5.
Bret Boone hit a two-run homer and Jeremy Reed had a double among his three hits and also drove in a run. Gil Meche (7-6) won his third straight decision to beat the A’s for the first time in nine career starts.
Greg Dobbs added two hits and two RBIs for Seattle (61-96), trying to avoid the club’s first 100-loss season since 1983. The A’s have lost six of eight.
“Once we figure out how to pitch to Reed and Dobbs, we’ll be in good shape,” Hudson said. “We’re not supermen out there. All those darn September callups, that’s our kryptonite, I guess. Five games left and we’re all knotted up. We need to win three of five and they need to lose three of five.”
Suzuki led off the game with a double to right-center, then singled to start the fifth. He finished 2-for-5 and needs four hits in Seattle’s final five games to break George Sisler’s 84-year-old record of 257 hits in a season.
“Five games left and it’s been a good season for me. I hope I don’t regret anything and go out there and finish it off,” Suzuki said.
The A’s issued 140 credentials to visiting media for this four-game series— mostly to the Japanese media covering Suzuki’s every move.
Suzuki had a .211 career average entering against Hudson (12-6), who has just one win in his past five starts. Suzuki has an eight-game hitting streak— all on the road—and is batting .486 (18-for-37) during the stretch.
Seattle’s recent success—the Mariners have won five of their last seven games—has lifted the mood in the clubhouse, and Suzuki has sensed a more positive environment.
“I don’t know if I can say it’s helped me get hits,” he said. “But when the team is winning and you have a good atmosphere, it’s overall a better situation.”
The Mariners tagged the Hudson for three runs on four hits in the first inning—Suzuki’s double, Edgar Martinez’s RBI single to center, a double by Raul Ibanez and Reed’s run-scoring single. The right-hander allowed seven runs on 11 hits in six innings, struck out three and didn’t walk a batter.
Suddenly, the A’s are staggering after brilliant Septembers in recent seasons.
The 53 days in first was their longest stretch leading the division since 1992, when they spent the final 61 days on top. Oakland is trying to reach the playoffs for the fifth straight season after losing in the first round the past four years.
The two-time defending division champs had a four-game division lead entering play on Sept. 5, but have gone 8-14 since. They are 11-15 this month, with the 15 losses being their most in one month since the club was 10-17 in May 2002.
Oakland went 70-30 the past four Septembers—the best mark in the majors.
Erubiel Durazo tripled in the fourth for the A’s after Reed cost the designated hitter a homer with a leaping stop against the wall in center field. The ball would’ve cleared the fence, but Reed deflected it off the bottom of his glove and the ball landed on the warning track.
First-base umpire Doug Eddings initially signaled a home run. After Reed and Mariners manager Bob Melvin protested the call, the umpires met to review the play, then called Durazo back to third. He scored moments later on Jermaine Dye’s sacrifice fly.
Eric Chavez scored on Durazo’s hit after leading off the inning with a double.
Other than that inning, Meche shut down the A’s lineup. He retired the side in order in the first and fifth and didn’t allow more than one baserunner in the second, third and sixth.
He walked Chavez in the seventh to load the bases, then gave way to Ron Villone, who got Durazo on a foul popout.
Meche allowed two runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings. He didn’t know until recently that he’d never beaten the A’s.
“I thought about it on the bench when I was done that it would probably be my first win against them,” he said.
Oakland’s Mark Kotsay singled in the third to extend his hitting streak to 15 games, an A’s season high. … Meche was 0-4 with a 4.78 ERA in his first eight outings vs. Oakland. … The A’s starters are 5-10 since Sept. 5 and have tossed six of fewer innings 12 times during that span.