Suzuki Reaches 200 Hits - Again

Thursday, August 26th 2004, 7:02 am
By: News On 6

Ichiro Suzuki showed he was a great hitter as soon as he arrived in the United States. Now he's proving to be one of the best in baseball history. Suzuki became the first player to reach 200 hits in each of his first four major league seasons when he homered Thursday night in the Seattle Mariners' 7-3 loss to the visiting Kansas City Royals.

``The guy is unreal,'' Royals manager Tony Pena said. ``He's a natural.''

After playing nine seasons in Japan, Suzuki came to Seattle in 2001 and finished with 242 hits _ the most in the majors since 1930.

He had 208 hits in 2002 and 212 last season. Now he has a shot to break the big league record of 257 set by George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns in 1920. The Mariners have 36 games remaining.

``At this point, I'm not going to think about that at all,'' the 30-year-old Suzuki said through a translator. ``I think you have goals that you can see and that goal is just too far for me to see.''

While Suzuki has made hitting look easy since joining the Mariners, Chan Ho Park has had a hard time finding any success since signing a $65 million, five-year contract with Texas before the 2002 season.

But he enjoyed a warm moment Thursday night, when he returned from a long stint on the disabled list and pitched the Rangers past the visiting Minnesota Twins 8-3.

``It was great,'' said Park, who earned only his 13th win since signing with Texas. ``I understand there has been a lot of disappointment from the fans. I had so much fun today.''

In other AL games, it was: Oakland 9, Baltimore 4; Boston 4, Detroit 1; New York 7, Toronto 4; and Chicago 14, Cleveland 9.

At Arlington, Texas, Park (3-4) allowed two runs and four hits in six innings to win for the first time since May 12 against Tampa Bay. The 31-year-old right-hander went on the disabled list May 20 with a sore back.

Park, who had not won at home since Sept. 12, 2002, warmed up to start the seventh and was relieved by Ron Mahay. Park received a standing ovation and wore a big grin as he walked toward the dugout.

He has been on the disabled list five times since joining the Rangers. He never was on the DL in six full seasons with Los Angeles.

``It was good for him to be able to smile,'' Texas manager Buck Showalter said. ``It was something we wanted to see. He's had a lot of negative crawling around him.''

Hank Blalock homered for the fifth time in six games and Texas (71-55) equaled its win total from last year. He and Alfonso Soriano each had three RBIs for the Rangers, who are 2 1/2 games behind first-place Oakland in the AL West and two games behind Boston in the wild-card race.

At Seattle, Suzuki sent the first pitch from reliever Jeremy Affeldt over the right-center fence in the ninth inning for his seventh homer of the year. That cut Kansas City's lead to 7-3 and brought chants of ``Ichiro! Ichiro!'' from the Safeco Field crowd of 30,962.

The 2001 AL MVP and four-time All-Star finished 1-for-5 and leads the AL with a .364 batting average. He went 0-for-11 after getting his 199th hit Tuesday night against Tampa Bay.

Suzuki had 210 hits in 130 games in Japan in 1994, the only time he had 200 hits in his native country. He reached the milestone this year in his 125th game.

``In Japan, at about the 120th game, I had 201 hits,'' Suzuki said. ``To go at about the same pace and do the same thing over here, I didn't imagine doing that.

``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.''

Abraham Nunez hit his second grand slam in two weeks to lead Kansas City.

Athletics 9, Orioles 4

At Oakland, Calif., Erubiel Durazo hit a three-run homer, and Eric Chavez also connected to help the Athletics complete a four-game sweep and send visiting Baltimore to its 10th straight loss.

Barry Zito (10-9) won for the third time in four starts, and the A's earned their ninth victory in 10 games. Scott Hatteberg added a three-run double for Oakland, which swept the season series 7-0.

All-Star shortstop Miguel Tejada, who left Oakland to sign with Baltimore during the offseason, went 1-for-15 in the series.

Yankees 7, Blue Jays 4

At Toronto, Alex Rodriguez hit a tiebreaking, two-run single in the ninth off Jason Frasor (4-4) as the Yankees overcame a 4-0 deficit and remained 5 1/2 games ahead of Boston in the AL East. New York has won seven times this year after trailing by at least four runs.

C.J. Nitkowski (1-1) got his first win with the Yankees. Mariano Rivera earned his major league-leading 44th save.

Red Sox 4, Tigers 1

At Boston, Bronson Arroyo (7-9) allowed only an unearned run and six hits in 7 1-3 innings, and the Red Sox won for the ninth time in 10 games to move a season-best 20 games over .500.

White Sox 14, Indians 9

At Cleveland, Carl Everett homered and drove in four runs, sending the Indians to their 10th loss in 11 games. Ben Davis and Juan Uribe also connected for Chicago, which tied Cleveland for second place in the AL Central. Paul Konerko had three hits and three RBIs.