Hernandez wins third straight decision for Mariners in 9-5 victory over Athletics

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Ichiro Suzuki is spending more time watching the hit series “Without a Trace” on DVD these days than monitoring Magglio Ordonez’s at-bats in the race for the AL batting title.

Suzuki boosted his cause yet again Wednesday by adding two more hits to his total and raising his average to .354, helping the Seattle Mariners to their first three-game sweep in Oakland since 2001 with a 9-5 victory over the Athletics.

“He’s my favorite (to win it),” Mariners manager John McLaren said of his star leadoff hitter. “He’s a pure hitter. He can put the ball any place he wants to. I don’t think anybody would be surprised if he wins the batting title.”

Ordonez began the day with the top average in the American League but went 0-for-4 for the Detroit Tigers in a loss at Cleveland and is now batting .353.

“Of course that’s something I’m aware of all the time,” Suzuki said through an interpreter. “It’s important. Not everyone can have this opportunity. I like my chances.”

While Suzuki says he does check ESPN and the newspapers, “Without a Trace” is keeping him plenty occupied.

“It’s very interesting and I enjoy it a lot,” he said, smiling.

Felix Hernandez won his third straight decision, Raul Ibanez had an RBI triple a day after hitting a grand slam and the Mariners swept a series in the Coliseum for the first time since April 10-12, 2001.

Suzuki went 2-for-3 to extend his hitting streak to 12 games, and Yuniesky Betancourt drove in three runs on a blustery Bay Area day when the first-pitch temperature was 63 degrees.

Seattle won its sixth straight in Oakland to finish 8-1 this season. They won the season series 14-5 after a 2-17 showing against the A’s in 2006.

Hernandez (13-7) won his sixth decision in his last seven and improved to 8-3 away from Safeco Field this season. It was the 21-year-old right-hander’s fourth 2007 start against the A’s, and he is 4-0 with a 1.29 ERA—up from the 0.39 ERA he had to start the day.

He allowed four runs and seven hits in five innings, with three strikeouts and four walks.

The wind gusts of up to 26 mph were a challenge, and Hernandez said his breaking pitches took on a life of their own. McLaren compared the wind to the old days at Candlestick Park across San Francisco Bay.

“Oh, man, I don’t like that,” Hernandez said. “The wind was killing me today. That was tough. They gave me a five-run lead and I was just trying to hang in there. If I never see this wind again it would be good for me.”

Jack Cust hit his 24th home run, a solo shot leading off the fifth that pulled Oakland within 5-4.

Jack Hannahan had an RBI double and also singled and Mark Ellis drove in a run for the A’s, who dropped their fourth straight game and must go undefeated over their final eight games to finish with a winning record for the ninth straight year.

Ryan Rowland-Smith pitched two scoreless innings, but Jon Huber and Sean Green got into trouble in the eighth. Huber walked the first two batters, then Green walked pinch-hitter Mike Piazza before Shannon Stewart’s sacrifice fly. George Sherrill recorded the final two outs, then J.J. Putz finished in a non-save situation.

McLaren waited to decide on the availability of Putz, who did not pitch Tuesday because of tightness in his triceps.

“He’s a gamer but I don’t want to put him in harm’s way just because he thinks he needs to be out there,” McLaren said. “He and the trainers have to tell us he’s right.”

Dan Meyer (0-2) fell behind in a hurry in his third career start—all of them coming this month.

Seattle jumped out to a quick lead again, getting Ibanez’s triple off the wall in left that scored Suzuki after he reached on a leadoff walk. Jose Guillen added an RBI single after the hit by Ibanez.

The Mariners got three more hits to start the second, including Burke’s RBI single and a run-scoring double by No. 9 hitter Betancourt. Suzuki followed with a sacrifice fly that made it 5-0.

The Mariners added two runs in the ninth after Cust dropped a routine fly ball in right for an error. Betancourt singled to center and stole second before Suzuki drove him in with a single to make it 9-5.


Hannahan went 11-for-27 (.407) during the homestand. … Suzuki is batting 20-for-49 (.408) with 10 runs scored and eight RBIs during his hitting streak, his fourth of at least 10 games this year. … The game lasted 3 hours, 42 minutes.

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