Suzuki homers, doubles twice for Mariners

Posted: Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Ichiro Suzuki is catching on about life in the majors. He's also catching up with the pitching.

Suzuki hit a two-run homer and two doubles Tuesday in Seattle's 7-4 loss to Oakland, the best game yet for the seven-time batting champion from Japan.

''That's what we've been waiting for,'' Mariners manager Lou Piniella said. ''It was a real nice day for him offensively.''

Suzuki, who bats leadoff and plays right field, has been having trouble pulling the ball this spring. Instead, he's been spraying around his hits, batting .356 and striking out only twice in 45 at-bats.

Suzuki doubled twice off Athletics starter Gil Heredia in Peoria, Ariz. The left-handed Suzuki homered off Erik Hiljus.

''He's got a good swing,'' Piniella said. ''We've said that and I've told you that we had some adjustments and he had to get acclimated to this league, to the pitching and just let him play. That's exactly what we're doing.''

Suzuki has been making other adjustments, too.

After his first spring training game for the Mariners, Suzuki criticized the home plate umpire, pointing out particular pitches that were called strikes that he thought should have been balls.

A brief talk with Piniella ended any further problems with the umps.

Suzuki also has not been afraid to take charge on fly balls in the outfield. Last year, in his first season after leaving Japan, Mariners reliever Kazuhiro Sasaki would not shake off his catcher, fearing it would show a lack of respect.

While Suzuki is getting comfortable, Kevin Millwood is struggling this spring.

The Atlanta pitcher who went from an 18-game winner to an under-.500 starter last season, gave up a grand slam to Orlando Cabrera in the Braves' 10-8 loss to Montreal.

Millwood allowed six runs and nine hits in four innings against the Expos in Jupiter, Fla. He has given up 18 earned runs in 9 1-3 innings this spring.

''It's the best he's thrown this spring,'' Braves manager Bobby Cox said. ''I thought both starters threw great, but the wind caught them.''

At Tampa, Fla., Chuck Knoblauch worked out in left field before New York lost 3-0 to Houston's split squad.

In other games, it was Los Angeles 12, Baltimore 7; Philadelphia 8, Texas 7 in 10 innings; Detroit 8, Cleveland 3; Kansas City 7, Toronto 4; Tampa Bay 6, Minnesota 5; the New York Mets 7, Houston 3; the Chicago Cubs 9, Milwaukee 8; Anaheim 7, San Francisco 4; and San Diego 3, the Chicago White Sox 1.

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