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Friday, September 15, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Bad baserunning kills rally as Royals beat M's

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Mariners update


Tonight: Seattle at Kansas City, 5:10 p.m., FSN/KOMO (1000 AM)

Starting pitchers: M's Francisco Cruceta (0-0) vs. Luke Hudson (7-5)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ichiro traditionally slaps pitchers silly with singles and burns them on the base paths. There is also the future-prototype Ichiro — the more powerful, long-ball threat his critics have been drawing up for years to rescue a Mariners team seeking more runs.

Both were on display Thursday night as an infield single by the speedy Ichiro and a rare home run helped the Mariners to two separate leads they squandered just as quickly.

In the end, though, it was an unknown version of Ichiro that helped seal an ugly 10-8 loss to the Royals in front of 8,839 fans at Kaufman Stadium. This one, which won't be shown on any highlight films, was of an aggressive, but confused base runner, who overran the bag at second in the sixth inning and helped snuff out his team's last true comeback threat.

"Those are baserunning mistakes that, no, we don't accept," Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said after his team lost for only the fourth time in its last 18 games with Kansas City.

"We'll talk to him. He knows he made a mistake. But they're not acceptable, no."

Ichiro's blunder came after a pair of home runs by Kansas City first baseman Ryan Shealy helped turn a Seattle lead into a two-run deficit. Seattle then loaded the bases with one out in the sixth and watched Adrian Beltre drive in a run with a sharp single to left.

But on the same play, Ichiro, who had been on first base after an intentional walk, headed to second on the single, then broke toward third. The runner in front of him, Jose Lopez, had been held up by third-base coach Carlos Garcia, leaving Ichiro caught between second and third.

During the ensuing rundown, Lopez tried to break for home and was thrown out. Instead of having the bases loaded and still only one out, the rally fizzled on an ensuing Yuniesky Betancourt strikeout.

Beltre hit a solo homer in the ninth off reliever Joe Nelson and pinch-hitter Ben Broussard drove in another run with a single. But it was too late to prevent Seattle's fourth loss in five games.

Ichiro was adamant that he saw Garcia wave Lopez around.

"I saw him giving him the signal to go home," he said through a translator. "So, initially, I wasn't trying to go to third. But I saw it and turned on the switch to go to third."

Hargrove said Ichiro's head was down on the play and he couldn't see the lead runner stop. Ichiro said he could see Lopez, as well as Garcia.

"I was watching both of them," he said. "But of course, you put the coach before anything else."

That didn't jibe with Garcia's version of events.

"Lopez hadn't even hit the bag when I stopped him," Garcia said. "Also, it was a one-hopper, right to the left fielder. So, he should be looking at Lopez, I think."

Hargrove later walked over to Ichiro in the clubhouse and chatted with him.

It might not have mattered had Seattle made more of eight early hits off Kansas City starter Odalis Perez. Ichiro's second-inning infield single scored one run, and another came home on a sacrifice fly by Beltre — one of three he drove in on the night — to make it 3-0.

But Mariners starter Jarrod Washburn couldn't hold the lead, yielding a two-run homer to dead center to Shealy as the Royals scored three to tie it. Ichiro then put Seattle back ahead with his own two-run shot in the fourth, lining a 1-2 pitch from Perez over the right-field wall.

The Royals, though, came back in the fifth as David DeJesus and Esteban German opened the inning with doubles to cut Kansas City's deficit to one. Washburn was pulled after issuing a one-out walk, and Emiliano Fruto came on and served up a three-run homer to Shealy that put the Royals ahead to stay.

Angel Berroa provided some insurance in the eighth with a suicide-squeeze bunt — the second given up by the Mariners this week — to score pinch-runner Paul Phillips from third.

Despite their eight runs, the inability to capitalize more early didn't help the Mariners. Of their eight hits the first two innings, seven were singles.

Those kinds of nights have fueled calls from fans who want to see Ichiro go deep more often like he did in the fourth inning. They would like to see this Mariners team, which is in the bottom third of the league in homers and slugging percentage, do more with runners on base.

But Ichiro merely shrugged when asked about the early singles parade in this one.

"That's baseball," he said. "So, that's the way you have to take it."

Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or gbaker@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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