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Ichiro still two hits away from record

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Ichiro Suzuki's teammates won't stand for
anybody messing with his spectacular season. When Suzuki got
plunked in the back, Seattle starter Bobby Madritsch nearly went
ballistic.

The rookie was ready to hit the next Oakland batter until his
teammates calmed him down. Suzuki appreciated the support, but was
happy Madritsch kept his cool.

Suzuki's fifth-inning single gave him 255 hits, two shy of
George Sisler's 84-year-old major league record, and the Mariners
sent the Athletics into second place in the AL West for the first
time since Aug. 5 with a 4-2 victory Wednesday night.

Suzuki has four games remaining to get the record. If he doesn't
do it Thursday against A's lefty Mark Redman, he will most
certainly reach the mark this weekend during Seattle's
season-ending series against Texas back at Safeco Field.

"If it's at home in front of our fans, so be it," manager Bob
Melvin said. "But I'd like to see him do it tomorrow and get it
out of the way."

The star leadoff hitter was booed when he stepped into the
batter's box in the first inning, then walked on a full count. He
struck out swinging in the third, then hit an infield single to
shortstop in the fifth. He grounded out to second to start the
eighth on a 13-pitch at-bat, then was hit in the back by Justin
Duchscherer in the ninth.

It enraged Madritsch, who stood up in the dugout.

"As a teammate, having him say that makes me really happy,"
Suzuki said. "But it was good he was able to control his emotions.
If he's going to have a future in baseball, he'll have to control
his emotions."

The Mariners' brass -- president Chuck Armstrong and chairman and
CEO Howard Lincoln -- flew to Oakland on Wednesday to see Suzuki go
for Sisler's mark, set in 1920 after he capped his stellar season
for the St. Louis Browns with 57 hits in 30 September games.

Madritsch (6-3) pitched a three-hitter for his first career
complete game. He walked four and struck out four.

"My mentality was to dominate," he said. "I wanted to get the
complete game really bad. I knew I could hurt them by denying them
the 'W."

The A's had been in sole possession of first place for 53 days
until losing to Seattle 7-2 on Tuesday night. Oakland, which has
lost seven of nine, fell a game behind Anaheim in the division
after the Angels held on for an 8-7 win at Texas in 11 innings.

"Nothing changes because we have to get ourselves together,"
A's manager Ken Macha said.

The Angels and A's play three games in Oakland this weekend to
finish the season.

"Any way you see the scenario, we have to win three of the next
four no matter what," center fielder Mark Kotsay said. "I hope we
can do the job tomorrow and make things interesting for the
weekend. We know where we're at."

The A's are still loose despite their September struggles --
they're 11-16 this month. Twice during pregame stretching they
booed the beautiful woman warming up for the national anthem.

Rich Harden has been Oakland's most reliable starter recently,
and on Wednesday he was good enough to record a rare strikeout of
Suzuki. But Harden (11-7) blew it in the eighth when he allowed a
one-out single to Randy Winn, then a double off the wall in left to
Bret Boone.

Ricardo Rincon relieved and struck out Raul Ibanez. Jim Mecir
entered to face Jolbert Cabrera, who drove in two runs with a
single to right, adding to his fourth-inning RBI double.

Moments later, an uncharacteristic throwing error by Kotsay on
Jeremy Reed's single scored Cabrera.

The A's, the two-time defending division champs, had a four-game
lead entering play on Sept. 5, but have gone 8-15 since. Oakland
went 70-30 the past four Septembers -- the best mark in the majors.

After the A's took a 1-0 lead in the third on Eric Chavez's RBI
single to center, Madritsch retired the next seven Oakland batters
before Eric Byrnes led off the sixth with his second double of the
game. Jermaine Dye walked two batters later, then Scott Hatteberg
drew a walk to load the bases for Marco Scutaro.

Scutaro reached on shortstop Jose Lopez's error, scoring Byrnes
for a 2-1 Oakland lead.

Harden entered 8-1 with a 3.47 ERA in his previous 14 starts.

He struck out the side in the fifth despite allowing a pair of
two-out singles, including the one to Suzuki. The A's starters are
5-11 since Sept. 5 and have tossed six or fewer innings 12 times
during that span.

The clubhouse was subdued and practically empty postgame.

"This is always what it's like after a tough loss," Harden
said. "It's kind of quiet, but we'll show up and be ready to play.
It's been tough, but we're still in a pretty good spot."

Kotsay went 0-for-3 with a walk, ending his season-best hitting
streak at 15 games.

Game notes
Madritsch is the Mariners' first rookie to pitch a complete
game since Freddy Garcia on Aug. 24, 1999, vs. Detroit. ...
Athletics C Damian Miller was a late scratch with a sore left thumb
and replaced by backup Adam Melhuse. ... Oakland manager Ken Macha
celebrated his 54th birthday and hit four homers during batting
practice. He hit only one during parts of six seasons in the majors
-- connecting in 1980.