Ichiro's first walk-off hit lifts Mariners

Ichiro's first walk-off hit lifts Mariners

SEATTLE -- The last of Ichiro Suzuki's three hits on Tuesday night was unlike any of the previous ones he has accumulated during his career with the Mariners.

This one ended a game.

There were eyebrows being raised all around the Mariners clubhouse when word spread that the 1,953rd hit of Ichiro's Major League career -- a ninth-inning flare into shallow center field that lifted Seattle to a 4-3 victory over Toronto -- was his first walk-off hit.

"Unbelievable," Ken Griffey Jr. said. "That's unbelievable."

The game-ending hit snapped the Mariners' four-game losing streak. Seattle (52-48) already had blown a three-run lead and had the bases loaded with no outs in the ninth inning.

Two outs later, the bases still were loaded and Ichiro was the last hope.

He took a pitch for a strike and swung wildly at a breaking pitch thrown by Blue Jays left-hander Scott Downs, missing by a wide margin. The final pitch almost hit the dirt, but Ichiro found a way to make good enough contact and serve it into shallow center field between shortstop Marco Scutaro and center fielder Vernon Wells.

Rob Johnson trotted in from third base to end the game and start the mob scene around Ichiro, who had a walk-off walk on Sept. 16, 2002.

"He never ceases to amaze me," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. "He's always in a position to make contact, it seems like, and to hit to all fields. You see him pull balls down the right-field line, and then go the other way. The beauty of that swing is that he can keep it in motion and keep it going forward and he seems to be able to keep the bat in the zone a long time."

But don't try it at home.

"That was a good pitch," Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "Most people are not going to hit that pitch. He just threw him two -- fooled him on a couple of them. One he took. One he swung at. Most guys, that's a punch out. You're talking about a guy who, to me, is probably one of the better hitters around.

"Most guys wouldn't hit that pitch," Gaston added. "You're trying to get a guy out there that averages 200 hits a year and is probably a Hall of Famer, as far as I'm concerned. Downs made two good pitches on him, and he hit a little flare over the shortstop's head. There's not much you can do about that."

Long wait for a walk-off
Entering his final at-bat Tuesday, Ichiro Suzuki had the most hits among active players without a walk-off hit, with 1,952. Below is a list of active players with the most hits without a walk-off hit.
Player
Hits
* Ichiro Suzuki1,952(snapped Tuesday)
Alex Cora742
Hanley Ramirez696
Willy Tavares640
Xavier Nady632
* Ichiro had a walk-off RBI on Sept. 16, 2002, when he drove in the winning run on a walk.

The Mariners finally played their kind of game -- low-scoring -- after being outscored 42-10 in the four-game skid.

"It was pretty much like any game in the whole first half," said closer David Aardsma, who picked up the win with a scoreless inning of relief. "It's a close game and we find a way to win at the end. I was just surprised that it wasn't [Jose] Lopez, because he's had so many this year."

The second baseman had a chance for his fourth walk-off hit when he batted for Michael Saunders. The Mariners had loaded the bases on a single, walk and bunt single that was intended to be a sacrifice bunt.

Lopez nearly delivered the game-winning, but his line drive down the left-field line curved foul. He eventually grounded into a force play at the plate. Shortstop Ronny Cedeno was next, and he struck out.

Three pitches later, Ichiro had done something for the first time.

Left-hander Jarrod Washburn continued to show why several teams, including the Mariners, would want him in their starting rotation.

Washburn, involved in recent trade rumors, held the Blue Jays in check for seven innings before departing with a 3-1 lead, only to watch the visitors tie the game with three doubles in the eighth inning off right-handed reliever Mark Lowe.

"'Wash' deserves the win more than I do," Aardsma said.

The veteran lefty didn't get the win, but he ended July with a 4-1 record and five straight starts allowing one run or less.

"There's no question that the rumors are on my mind, but once you're on the field, you don't think about them," Washburn said. "It's possible that this was my last game here, but it's not in my hands.

"If they decide to trade me, and they think that's going to make the Mariners better for the future, then that's the direction they'll go in. If not, I've already said I'd be willing to talk about staying here. We'll see what happens in the next three days."

The non-waiver Trade Deadline is Friday at 1 p.m. PT, and Washburn has been linked to trade talks involving the Yankees and Brewers.

Washburn got some big-time help in the first inning to keep from falling behind by one run, and an infield hit by Ichiro in the bottom of the inning led to the only run of the game during the first five innings.

After retiring the first two batters routinely, Washburn watched a pitch he threw to Wells become a potential home run.

The ball and left fielder Saunders reached the fence at about the same time. Saunders jumped as high as he could and snagged the ball just before it went over the fence.

A team full of high fives welcomed Saunders at the first-base dugout.

"It was a great catch," Washburn said. "Any time you have one, it's a great lift for the team."

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.