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The real M's on display for Rays

Seattle snaps a two-game skid with a 5-2 victory, though Tampa Bay still can end the Mariners' road series win streak at 26.

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 30, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays got to see for themselves why the Mariners are so good. They got to see Ichiro Suzuki run. See Bret Boone hit. See Jamie Moyer pitch. And see the Mariners win for the 95th time this season, 5-2.

The gap between the best and worst teams in the majors wasn't all that wide Wednesday, but it was significant enough.

Ichiro, the Japanese sensation, created one run with his dynamic hitting and daring baserunning. Boone took care of three others with his powerful bat. And Moyer made sure the Rays couldn't do much about it, allowing three hits over seven innings to win his seventh straight and 16th overall.

"They have it all," Rays pitcher Tanyon Sturtze said.

For the 11th time, the Mariners averted what would have been their first three-game losing streak of the season. Still on the line in today's 12:15 matinee is the Mariners' streak of 26 road series wins, which ties the major-league record held by the 1906-07 Cubs. The Mariners have prevailed in 13 "must-win" games to keep that streak alive.

"We have a chance to win the series, so that's what we have to focus on," manager Hal McRae said before heading home for a short night's sleep. "If we were to do that, we've had a good series against the best club in baseball record-wise."

Said Mariners manager Lou Piniella: "We haven't lost a series on the road all year, so we'll see what happens."

The Rays, however, were technically eliminated from the AL East race, though the "-x" may not appear next to their name in the standings until their next loss. Of more relevance, they dropped to 13-14 in August, meaning they need to win today and Friday to record their third winning month in their history and first since June 2000.

The Mariners came out aggressively and scored two quick runs in the first before an announced 12,792 at Tropicana Field and that, essentially, was the difference in the game.

"We gave a good pitcher the lead early and that was it," Sturtze said.

Ichiro, who reached the 200-hit mark Tuesday, quickly added to his total, opening the game with a hard single off second baseman Brent Abernathy's glove. Ichiro, a candidate for the American League's rookie of the year and MVP awards, stole second and third and scored when Toby Hall's throw sailed into leftfield.

"He made things happens," Rays leadoff man Jason Tyner said. "He put pressure on us."

Edgar Martinez singled with one out, John Olerud doubled and Boone drove in Martinez with a ground-ball out.

"The first inning hurt quite a bit," McRae said. "We didn't play well, and I thought we gave them two runs."

Boone struck more forcefully in the sixth, lining a 1-and-1 pitch from Sturtze into the leftfield seats for a two-run home run, making him the third AL second baseman to hit at least 30 homers in a season, joining Joe Gordon with the Yankees and Indians and California's Bobby Grich. He also ran his RBI total to 115, most by an AL second baseman since Bobby Doerr had 120 for Boston in 1950.

"A bad slider, and I let a guy beat me I shouldn't have let beat me," said Sturtze, who also allowed a homer to Martinez in the eighth.

The Rays were having trouble doing much of anything against Moyer, who throws most of his pitches in the 75 to 88 mph range and has had stunning success.

"That guy's tricky," Steve Cox said. "He throws everything so you can't hit it on the barrel. He totally knows how to pitch. He thinks totally the opposite of what you're thinking."

Moyer matched Oakland's Mark Mulder for second in the league with 16 victories. He is 7-0 with a 1.67 ERA in his past nine starts.

"Crafty lefty that he is, he pitched well," McRae said. "He has a knack about knowing what to throw and what speed to throw it."

As impressed as the Rays were with the Mariners, Moyer had some kind things to say about what he saw in the Rays.

"We're facing a lot of guys we've never seen before in a ballpark where a lot of things can happen," Moyer said. "You can't take any lead for granted in this ballpark against a ballclub like this. They're young kids, they're hungry, they play hard, they hustle. They're fun to watch."

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