Sports : Tuesday, May 15, 2001
No stopping, resting Ichiro
By Bob Finnigan
Seattle Times staff reporter
TORONTO - In the goody bag that is Ichiro, Mariner fans have
seen talent that is charging and changing the play of the Mariners
almost day by day.
But Sunday, if they looked closely, they may have seen something the
multifaceted outfielder had not shown before.
Standing on first base in the sixth inning, after placing a perfect
hit-and-run single behind a breaking Charles Gipson, Ichiro
It was little and it was fleeting, but for a flicker it broke through
the game face the guy wears as constantly as his scraggly beard.
No wonder. The man is hot.
So hot that he had locked up the 19th game of his current hitting
streak before the Toronto Blue Jays had time to announce the time of
Sunday's first pitch - since he had lined it into right-center field for
So hot that going 33 for 92 during this streak has added only one
point to his batting average, now .360, from when he started the stretch
So hot that he has hits in 35 of 37 games, a pace that would give him
hits in 153 games. The major-league mark is 135, shared by Chuck Klein
(1930), Rogers Hornsby (1922) and Wade Boggs (1985).
So hot, he's on pace for 271 hits. The major-league mark is 257 set
by George Sisler of St. Louis in 1920, and the American League mark is
253 by Al Simmons of Philadelphia in 1925.
Ichiro's so hot that he kept himself in Sunday's lineup with four
hits - again. Manager Lou Piniella had considered holding Ichiro
out of the last game of the Boston-Toronto trip, but as Ichiro
did on April 6 and April 17, days before Piniella planned to rest him,
he got four hits on Saturday, and as on April 7 and April 18, was back
That, plus the fact he is such a good AstroTurf player, meant he was
back in there for the SkyDome finale.
"You watch him on turf, and you can see he was made for
it," Piniella said. "The infield has to play him shallower for
his speed and he can bang the ball through. He showed Saturday he can
line the ball in the outfield gaps and it gets through for extra
Ichiro's so hot he shot the right-center gap for triples both
Saturday and Sunday, giving him five in 37 games and a pace for 22 this
season, which would double the Mariners' current record, set by Harold
Reynolds in 1988.
Incidentally, the Fox Sports TV crew timed Ichiro's breaks on his
triple Saturday, and the guy got faster the farther he went. It took him
4.17 seconds to reach first base from the batter's box, 3.47 from first
to second and 3.43 from second to third. That, fans, is fast.
Ichiro also is so hot that he has broken only three bats this
For comparison, Edgar Martinez was asked how many he has broken.
"Too many," said the Mariner designated-hitter. "It's
easier for me to count the bats I have left, than the broken ones."
Piniella said Ichiro saves his wood but constantly gets the
good part of the bat on pitches.
"Whether he takes an inside-out swing or a normal swing, he has
a knack for getting the fat part of the bat on the ball," he said.
The manager does plan on giving his right fielder a day off this week
against Chicago, since the White Sox will start two lefties in a three
games, Mark Buehrle tonight and David Wells on Thursday. Right-hander
Rocky Biddle starts tomorrow.
"Right now, we're looking at the first game," Piniella
said. "With the off-day Monday and Wednesday a night game, it would
be like having three days off for him."
But don't count on it. As Piniella has found out again and again and
(literally) again, it's tough to sit a man who is this hot.