Ichiro starts the night with a 21-game hitting streak, a .343 batting average and 16 runs scored.
Why? The answer is in the lineup behind him.
Adrian Beltre is batting third tonight, Ken Griffey Jr. fourth – and Beltre is hitting .212, Griffey .218. No team in baseball will field a weaker 3-4 punch tonight.
Want more? Jose Lopez (.216) and Rob Johnson (.211) are in the lineup, too, which puts a lot of pressure on the pitching – in this case, lefty Jason Vargas.
And we’re off.
One-out third-inning singles from Endy Chavez and Franklin Gutierrez put runners at first and third base for – guess who – Ichiro.
Oh yes, and make that a 22-game hitting streak.
Bases loaded for Beltre, whose excuse-me roller down the third base line wound up an infield RBI single. That brought up Junior, who flied out deep enought to get Ichiro home – Junior’s 13th RBI, Ichiro’s 17th run scored.
That man Rivera
Outfielder Juan Rivera has five home runs this season – four against Seattle. No. 5 came on a pitch Vargas left up in the fifth inning, and it wasn’t cheap.
The lefty seemed absolutely unfazed by the mistake, and got the next three batters and has now worked five innings.
In starts against Texas, Boston, San Francisco and now Los Angeles, Vargas has pitched a least five innings in every game and allowed only one earned run in each.
Yes, that’s impressive.
After five: Mariners 3, Angels 1
You remember ‘Wak ball,’ where the Marines find ways to push runs home without the help of, say, two hits in an inning.
Russell Branyan doubled to open the sixth, Jose Lopez bunted him to third and a Chavez fly ball got him home.
The lead is three again, and Vargas made it stand up through six. Miguel Batista is loose in the bullpen and likely coming in to pitch the seventh inning.
After six: Mariners 4, Angels 1
Goodnight Mr. Vargas, hello bullpen
A walk and two singles chased Vargas after 6 1/3 innings, and Sean White hustled in and put the Angels own on a pop fly and a strikeout with a man on third.
The Mariners tried more ‘Wak ball’ in the top of the inning, bunting Ichiro over to third after a leadof doulble. What happened?
Beltre struck out. Griffey flied out.
Seattle could sure use that run.
After seven: Mariners 4, Angels 2
And in the end
Great relief pitching by Sean White and Mark Lowe to get the game to the ninth. There, David Aardsma got the first two outs, gave up a single and a walk, and struck out Mike Napoli to end it.
That’s a win for Vargas, a save for Aardsma and – lookie there – the Mariners are two back of the Angels in the American League West.
Final score: Mariners 5, Angels 2