|Oakland Athletics' Jack Cust hits a home run against the Seattle Mariners in the fourth inning during a baseball game Saturday, Oct. 2, 2010, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)|
A's sweep final 4 from Seattle with 4-3 win
SEATTLE—At the end of his second 101-loss season in three years, Ichiro Suzuki summed up a miserable summer of Seattle baseball.
"I don't think anyone could have imagined this," he said through an interpreter. "I think it's stupid to imagine this."
While the Mariners concluded a season of futility, the Oakland Athletics were filled with optimism.
Oakland finished 81-81 for its first non-losing season since winning the AL West with 93 victories four years ago.
"It's a lot better than last year sitting at this desk. That was a great finish," Oakland manager Bob Geren said.
The A's wound up in sole possession of second place in the AL West and have plenty to look forward to with the development of young pitchers such as Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez.
Another one of those youngster, Dallas Braden, gained his 11th victory in the finale. Braden allowed two runs and five hits in five innings before leaving with a sore neck.
"I wasn't feeling like I was able to finish any kind of pitches," Braden said. "We wanted to win the game, finish with a victory and go out on a good note."
Suzuki's homer on the first pitch of the fourth inning gave the A's a 2-0 lead. Seattle pulled even in the fifth on Ichiro Suzuki's two-out, two-run double, but Carter came through in the sixth with a bases loaded single off Anthony Varvaro (0-1).
Kouzmanoff added a little insurance in the eighth with a solo shot off Garrett Olson, his 16th homer of the season.
Seattle finished at 61-101. Mariners ace Felix Hernandez could have made one more start Sunday on normal rest, burnishing his AL Cy Young Award credentials. But management erred on the side of caution, noting Hernandez's league-best 249 2-3 innings already was the highest of his career. The 24-year-old also led the AL in ERA (2.27) opponents batting average (.212) and was second in strikeouts (232), one behind the Angels' Jered Weaver.
Hernandez was relegated Sunday to standing on the dugout railing and acknowledging a standing ovation from the 23,263 in attendance following a video tribute on the big screen in the middle of the third inning.
That was about the most exciting moment for Mariners fans, a far cry from a year earlier when Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro Suzuki were carried around the field on teammates' shoulders after a surprising 85-win season.
Ichiro Suzuki's double providing a brief jolt, giving the All-Star his 213th hit. He added a single in the eighth for No. 214 and scored on Justin Smoak's two-out single.
"It was more just trying to have fun," said Smoak, who struggled following his trade from Texas to Seattle but closed the season on a 10-game hitting streak. "It's a grind, it's a long season, but it's a game. It's a game I've been playing my whole life and if you go out there and have fun good things will happen."
Mark Ellis gave Oakland a 1-0 lead in the third with a two-out RBI double to score Rajai Davis, who barely beat a potential double play to keep the inning going. Kurt Suzuki's homer into the A's bullpen in left field was his 13th.
Oakland then took the lead in the sixth off Varvaro, with Ellis scoring on Carter's sharp single.
Neither starter pitched past the fifth. Seattle's Ryan Rowland-Smith gave up two runs and four hits in five innings.
Craig Breslow got four outs for his fifth save in seven opportunities.
"Everyone knows how intelligent he is but he actually pitches that way," Geren said of Breslow. "He is a very smart pitcher."
Seattle center fielder Franklin Gutierrez set a major league record for the most chances in an entire season without committing an error. Gutierrez was the designated hitter on Sunday, ensuring the record. He played 146 of his 152 games in center field this season and was perfect in his 415 chances. The previous mark was 396 by Curt Flood with St. Louis in 1966.
Gutierrez's mark was one of the few positives for the Mariners.
"At the end of the day, to come up with results like this, that's very tough as a player," Suzuki said. "All you can feel is you feel just bad for what you've done this year. You feel very guilty. That's all I can say as of now."
NOTES: Sunday was the final game for Seattle video coordinator Carl Hamilton after 21 years. Hamilton is retiring at the end of the calendar year. He threw out the first pitch to former Mariners C Dan Wilson. ... Seattle OF Ryan Langerhans and IF/OF Matt Tuiasosopo will each have surgery next week to remove bone chips from their elbows. ... Oakland 1B Daric Barton did not start because of a strained quadriceps. He pinch hit in the sixth and struck out.