Ichiro's leaping grab preserves win

Ichiro's leaping grab preserves win

CLEVELAND -- Don Wakamatsu didn't look.

David Aardsma threw up his arms in jubilation.

Both reactions were completely understandable.

Aardsma got credit for his 22nd save in the Mariners' 5-3 win over the Indians on Sunday, but the real save went to right fielder Ichiro Suzuki, who climbed the wall to catch Victor Martinez's fly ball with a runner on first to end the game.

"How do you not get a huge rush?" said Aardsma when asked about his recation. "With Ichiro, you never know. He might be standing on top of the wall to make a catch. It doesn't get any bigger than that."

Indeed. While the ball might not have been out of the park -- it appeared Martinez's drive was going to hit the yellow line on top of the wall -- Suzuki's catch certainly saved additional trouble, if not a game-tying two-run homer.

"The only thing in my mind was to catch it, just like a dog chasing a frisbee," Suzuki said through a translator.

Asked if the catch was even more special because of the circumstances, Suzuki said: "Of course, because it made everyone here [in the clubhouse] happy and it led to a win."

Aardsma retired the first two hitters in the ninth but walked Shin-Soo Choo. Martinez drove a 1-0 pitch to deep right and Suzuki drifted back to the wall.

"I didn't look," Wakamatsu said. "I looked at the hitter and it looked like he thought he got it."

Of course, it helps when a team has an eight-time Gold Glover out there. Suzuki jumped, came down with the ball and held it up as the Mariners players on the field and in the dugout erupted in celebration.

"You always feel confident that he'll make a great catch," Wakamatsu said.

"When [Martinez] first hit it, I thought it was going to go," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "[Ichiro] made a great catch with the game on the line."

Before the late drama, Russell Branyan and Franklin Gutierrez -- two former members of the Indians -- came through for the Mariners.

Branyan, who played for Cleveland from 1998-2002, hit a two-run homer in the first, while Gutierrez, dealt to Seattle in December, started the go-ahead rally in the eighth and scored the winning run on pinch-hitter Jack Hannahan's sacrifice fly.

Gutierrez, who also had an RBI single in the first and added an insurance run in the ninth with an RBI fielder's choice, began the eighth with a single off Rafael Betancourt and stole second with Rob Johnson batting. After Johnson walked, Ryan Langerhans laid down a sacrifice bunt. Hannahan, batting for Chris Woodward, hit a fly ball to right deep enough to score Gutierrez.

Shawn Kelley (2-1) pitched a scoreless seventh for the win. The Mariners took the final three games of the series after making four errors in a 4-1 loss Thursday night.

Branyan was supposed to get the day off to rest his stiff back, but Wakamatsu reconsidered after his slugger told him his back felt better.

"I have enough history with my back to know when I can push it and when I have to rest it," Branyan said.

Suzuki started the game with a single and went to second on a wild pitch with Branyan batting. Branyan then unloaded on a 2-1 pitch from Aaron Laffey, driving the ball deep into the seats in right-center for his 23rd home run.

Now that he's getting a chance to play every day for the first time in his career, Branyan is reluctant to miss any time, even if it's for a legitimate reason.

"I've spent a lot of my career on the bench," he said. "It's no place to be."

Branyan has been struggling at the plate this month.

"Russell really wanted to play today," Wakamatsu said. "I'm awfully happy for him."

The first-inning rally continued when Chris Shelton, starting at designated hitter while Ken Griffey Jr. got the day off, doubled past third and scored on Gutierrez's single.

Erik Bedard, making his third start since coming off the DL with left shoulder inflammation earlier this month, allowed three runs in 4 2/3 innings. One of the runs was unearned because of a fielding error by second baseman Jose Lopez in the fifth. Bedard gave up a two-run homer to Ben Francisco in the second.

Miguel Batista pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out two. After Kelley struck out two in the seventh, Mark Lowe pitched a scoreless eighth, striking out one.

Aardsma, who saved each of the past three games, is 22-for-24 in save opportunities.

Steve Herrick is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.