CHICAGO -- After spending more than two weeks playing teams competing for American League playoff spots, the Mariners finally can take a deep breath -- for a few hours anyway. On a day Raul Ibanez continued his torrid offensive surge in August -- hitting his 20th home run of the season, a two-run blast into the right field bleachers in the fifth inning, and an RBI single -- the Mariners took it on the chin again, this time a haymaker in a 15-3 loss to the White Sox on Wednesday in front of 27,000 at U.S. Cellular Field. Ibanez improved his August batting average to .440 (33-for-75) and he ranks among the league leaders in hits (33), doubles (nine) RBIs (24) and extra-base hits (15).
Right fielder Ichiro Suzuki holds the club record for highest batting average in August with a .463 mark in 2004, when he eventually broke an 80-year-old record for most hits in a season. He continues his assault on another long-standing record -- most consecutive seasons with at least 200 hits. Ichiro had three singles on Wednesday, giving him 166 hits this season. He has 36 games remaining to accumulate the 34 hits he needs to reach the 200-hit plateau for the eighth time and equal the MLB record currently held by Willie Keeler. At the other end of the spectrum, the Mariners reached the 80-loss mark with their sixth straight defeat and have now dropped 10 of their last 11 games -- all of them against AL playoff contenders. Is there any chance of a letdown from the demoralized Mariners against the Athletics? "There is probably a little danger of that," manager Jim Riggleman said, "except that [the Athletics] have beaten us to the point where I think our guys feel like, you know, we have a tough game every day. Oakland and Texas are not up with the Angels in the standings, but are far ahead of us, and it would be ridiculous for us to have a letdown." That being said, playing the Athletics should be less stressful than the rugged 15-game stretch they just went through against the Rays (1-3), Twins (2-4), Angels (1-1) and White Sox (0-3). The road trip ended with a thud. Right-handed knuckleball specialist R.A. Dickey, inserted back into the rotation because of an injury to Carlos Silva, surrendered six runs in the first inning. The first five batters he faced reached base and all of them scored. "No matter what I threw up there, they covered it with the barrels [of their bats]," Dickey said. "I made mistakes today and they hit 'em. It was a blink of an eye. I mean, single, double, walk, two ground-ball [singles] and a home run and it was 6-0. "Not every one of them were bad pitches, but [the White Sox] are very good at scoring runs. And they did." Second baseman Alexei Ramirez capped the barrage with a three-run home run to left field. After a brief visit from Riggleman, Dickey retired the next two batters, but the Major League's most powerful team flexed its muscles again in the second when Ken Griffey Jr. hit a two-run home run to right field. It was Junior's first homer since joining the White Sox, his 16th overall this season and 609th of his career, tying him with Sammy Sosa for fifth place on the all-time list. It also was the final inning Dickey pitched on the warm afternoon. "R.A. Dickey gives you everything he has, does everything for this ballclub that anybody asks, pitches in between starts and makes himself available even when he's not in between starts, and probably is a little tired," Riggleman said. "He wanted to stay in the game for five or six innings because he knows what it would do if he came out after an inning or two." Dickey said he "begged" to stay in the game. "If I'm going to give up runs, I might as well stay in the game and save the bullpen," he said. The White Sox lead the Major Leagues in home runs and padded their lead on Wednesday. Besides the two home runs Dickey surrendered, lefty reliever Jake Woods yielded long balls to A.J. Pierzynski in the fifth and Nick Swisher in the sixth as the Sox piled it on. After six innings, the White Sox had 14 runs and one runner left on base, while the Mariners had three runs and six runners left on base. It was that kind of a series for Seattle, which was outscored, 33-8, and swept for the 10th time this season. Seattle is now 9-22 since the All-Star break, which actually is slightly better than the Athletics, who are 6-25 since the Midsummer Classic. While neither team has much to play for the remainder of the season, Riggleman expects his team to keep playing hard. "If they have to be reminded of that, they need to be weeded out of the herd," he said. "Guys are fighting for their jobs and their career, and others are trying to establish themselves in the big leagues. There is a reason for everybody every day to go out there and perform, and the No. 1 reason is you sign a contract that says you are going to do that. [Not playing hard] would be just totally unacceptable."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.