MINNEAPOLIS -- Manager Don Wakamatsu said on Sunday that the Mariners' struggling offense has altered the way opposing teams are pitching Ichiro Suzuki.
"You look at our offense and [opponents] may be pitching him a little different," Wakamatsu said. "He's the only .300 hitter in the lineup and he normally doesn't walk, so they are forcing him to swing at pitches a little farther out of the zone than he normally does."
Ichiro is coming off one of the toughest months of his career, batting only .246 in July. It was the first time since September 2008 that he did not bat at least .300 -- a streak of nine consecutive months.
"I see him fouling off a lot more pitches than I did last year," Wakamatsu said. "Not because he is missing, but because the pitches are not as good as he was afforded last year, in my opinion."
Unlike most teams, especially in the offensive-minded American League, the Mariners do not have a plethora of power hitters in the middle of the lineup. So opposing pitchers can go outside the strike zone against Ichiro and, even if he walks, the chances of him scoring are low.
Ichiro has scored 42 runs this season and probably will record the lowest total during his 10 Major League seasons. He scored 88 runs last season after topping the 100 mark each year from 2001-08.
"I do believe that teams pitch according to their bubble-gum card," Wakamatsu said. "If you walk him in a certain situation and are not intimidated by the meat of the order, and I think that's the case, they are going to pitch him a little bit tougher."