Mariners improve to 31-9 as Ichiro extends streak
Updated: Friday May 18, 2001 2:54 AM
SEATTLE (AP) -- Ichiro Suzuki is making it look easy in America.
"When you put the ball in play as consistently as he does and you stretch the defense out there like he does, you're going to find holes," manager Lou Piniella said. "That's what he does."
Bret Boone hit a three-run homer as the Mariners swept their fifth series of the season to improve their record to 31-9, the best mark in the majors.
The Mariners became the 11th team in major league history to start a season 31-9 or better. The last team to do that was the 1998 New York Yankees. The Mariners also tied the franchise record by going 22 games over .500.
Suzuki had his sixth consecutive multihit game and 21st of the season to raise his average to .371. His streak is the longest in the majors this season.
Suzuki, the seven-time batting champion in Japan where he had a career batting average of .353, has hit in 38 of 40 games in his first season with the Mariners. He is two games shy of Joey Cora's franchise-record hitting streak set in 1997 and one shy of his beat streak in Japan, set in 1994.
"I just forgot that feeling a long time ago," said Suzuki when asked about his 1994 streak.
With the Mariners leading 1-0, Boone homered off David Wells (3-4) to make it a four-run game. Wells lost to the Mariners for the fourth consecutive time.
Suzuki went 2-for-4 in his first matchup against Wells and broke two bats.
"A lot of guys got broken bats," he said of facing Wells. "I understand why that happened."
White Sox catcher Josh Paul said AL pitchers are trying to figure out Suzuki.
"If it's close to the plate, he will take a good swing at it and put it in play," Paul said. "He keeps his hands back. It's tough to fool him and you never see him out in front of a pitch."
Garcia wanted to get the Mariners' first complete game this season. But he understood why Piniella went to Nelson after he gave up a two-out double and a walk in the eighth.
"The bullpen has been outstanding," he said. "You pitch seven innings, the bullpen comes in and the game is over."
Paul Konerko, in a 1-for-23 slump, led off the fifth with a homer for Chicago's only run.
Suzuki opened the game with a single, stole second and third and scored on Edgar Martinez's single.
"It's unbelievable," Boone said. "It seems like he starts the game off with a hit every day. It's amazing."
Boone, who went 3-for-4 to raise his batting average to .331, hit his eighth homer of the season after a one-out walk to Martinez and John Olerud's single.
Stan Javier added an RBI single in the sixth.
Wells allowed five runs, 10 hits and two walks in six innings on the three-year anniversary of his perfect game against Minnesota for the Yankees.
"He got the ball up to Bret," Chicago manager Jerry Manuel said. "Bret hit a home run off him in spring training as well."
Notes: Suzuki, who had a career high 49 steals in Japan in 1995, has 13 this year, tying the Yankees' Chuck Knoblauch for most in the majors. ... Wells' last victory against Seattle came May 3, 1999, at the Kingdome. ... Konerko came into the game hitting .130 (6-for-46) in May, the lowest among all AL hitters. ... Seattle is 5-1 against Chicago this season. ... Garcia improved his career record to 4-1 against the White Sox. ... A crowd of 43,510 watched the series finale. All three games of the Mariners' weekend series with the Yankees have been sold out. ... The Mariners have stolen 35 of 41 bases, the best percentage (.854) in the AL. ... Garcia has allowed 17 consecutive solo home runs dating back to July 28. ... The Mariners swept the White Sox for the first time since Aug. 9-11, 1999.