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Hit and miss for M's


Hit and miss for M's
The Mariners were reminded Thursday, and none too gently, that in Baseball, fairy tales and magic can go "poof" and disappear at any moment.

For about half of their eventual 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field, it shaped up as another one of those high-spirited romps, filled with milestones and mayhem, that has marked their early 2009 season.

Chris Jakubauskas, whose back story could be sold to Hollywood, was breezing in his first major-league start, energizing the crowd of 18,528 12 more fans than the previous night. He was, as manager Don Wakamatsu would say afterward, "a man on a mission, and he pitched like it."

Ichiro delivered a fourth-inning single that made him the all-time hits leader among Japanese players. And then he came around to score the game's first run just maybe the only one the Mariners would need en route to what would have been their seventh consecutive win.

But that story line disappeared in the sixth inning, and was replaced by one entirely different, and much darker for Seattle fans a Mariners bullpen collapse that negated all the good work that preceded it. Especially Jakubauskas'.

One strike away from getting out of the inning with their 1-0 lead intact, Roy Corcoran yielded a bases-loaded single to Mike Napoli on an 0-2 pitch that allowed two inherited Jakubauskas runners to score.

The rest, as they say, was misery. Napoli's was the first of three straight hits off Corcoran, who gave way to Mark Lowe. And Lowe gave up another hit as the Angels scored five to salvage one game of the three-game series. The Mariners had just four hits three of them of the infield variety.

Wakamatsu cited Corcoran's 0-2 pitch "a tough one; he left it up" as one of two key junctures in the game, the other being Wladimir Balentien's strikeout on a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth.

The game will always be remembered in Japan for Ichiro's ascension to the top of its hits parade.

Japanese Hall of Famer Isao Harimoto, who was in attendance at Safeco, held the record with 3,085 hits. Ichiro's single, a grounder through the right side, was the 3,086th overall in his career 1,278 in Japan for the Orix Blue Wave, and 1,808 for the Mariners .

"Mr. Harimoto in 1995 14 years ago told me that the only guy that can beat me is you," Ichiro recalled. "For him to say that to a player who had only been around one year is amazing. I'm sure I was the only one he said it to. He didn't say it to everyone. That vision he had is amazing."

His reaction at the time to Harimoto's bold declaration? "I thought, `What's this crazy man saying?' "

Ichiro noted that Harimoto was planning to go back to Japan today.

"If I didn't get the record, I was worried what he would do with his plane ticket, so I had that kind of pressure, too," he said.

Ichiro expressed "my thankfulness" to Harimoto for traveling to Seattle, and his "respect" for the mark that he wound up eclipsing.

The game will also never be forgotten, no doubt, by Jakubauskas. The 30-year-old converted infielder had kicked around the independent leagues for five seasons before a Mariners scout discovered him in 2007 pitching for the Lincoln Saltdogs in Nebraska.

He worked his way up rapidly through the Mariners' farm system, dazzled in spring training as a nonroster invitee, and became the unlikeliest member of the Mariners' season-opening 25-man roster.

When Ryan Rowland-Smith went on the disabled list Tuesday, Jakubauskas moved into the rotation, and Thursday was making his first major-league start. Against the team he rooted for while growing up in Southern California, no less.

"I had no nerves at all," he said. "I was more excited OK, here's my first start against the team I've been watching my whole life."

Jakubauskas's parents, Russ and Sue, were in the crowd at Safeco Field, wearing their No. 41 "Jakubauskas" jerseys, of course. Sue's an Angels fan, Russ a Dodgers fan "but I don't hold that against him," Chris said, smiling. "It was a house divided."

Jakubauskas was dazzling, despite the "L" that was tagged on his record. Jakubauskas was a poised, strike-throwing machine, hurling five shutout innings at the outset.

Jakubauskas worked 5-1/3 innings, giving up five hits and two runs, striking out three with no walks. Of the 81 pitches he threw, 60 were strikes.

"He showed what we saw in spring training his poise, the quality of pitches, a good breaking ball," said Wakamatsu. "He tired real quick, because of his lack of being stretched out. What impressed me so much was he was pretty efficient with his pitches, and aggressive."

The Angels were playing without their slugger Vladimir Guerrero, who flew to Los Angeles to have his strained right pectoral examined today by Dr. Lewis Yocum.

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com

Today

Detroit @ Mariners , 7:10 p.m., FSN


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 18, 2009

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