Series: Game 3 of 4

Seattle leads 2-1 (as of 9/29)

Game 1: Monday, September 27
Game 2: Tuesday, September 28
Game 3: Wednesday, September 29
Game 4: Thursday, September 30

Mariners 4

(62-96, 25-54 away)

Athletics 2

(89-69, 50-27 home)

10:05 PM ET, September 29, 2004 Coliseum, Oakland, California 

123456789 R H E
SEA 000100030 4 10 1
OAK 001001000 2 3 1

W: B. Madritsch (6-3)

L: R. Harden (11-7)

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.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press