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Ichiro inches along with lone single

Slumping Ichiro reaches 196 in Seattle loss

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ANAHEIM -- Ichiro Suzuki took another step toward history on Wednesday night, but he didn't stick around to talk about it.

He singled into right field in the third inning for his 196th hit of the season, and made outs in his other four at-bats, leaving him four hits away from becoming the first player in Major League history to have at least 200 hits in nine consecutive seasons.

Ichiro, who is 1-for-10 in this three-game series and might be pressing just a little, currently is tied with Hall of Fame outfielder Willie Keeler (1894-1901) with eight straight 200-hit seasons.

By the time the doors to the visiting clubhouse opened after the Mariners' 6-3 loss to the Angels, extending Seattle's losing streak to four games, Ichiro had showered, dressed and departed without speaking to the media -- including the Japanese writers.

"I think they are making good pitches on him, I really do," said manager Don Wakamatsu. "I think he's battling up there. You know, he got another hit tonight, but when he doesn't get two or three, you are shocked by it. That's a statement of just how good he is."

The hit also kept alive Ichiro's streak of not going hitless in back-to-back games this season.

The Mariners, however, moved another step closer to mathematical elimination from playoff contention before 36,340 at Angel Stadium.

After starting the road trip with back-to-back wins against the Athletics and moving a season-high eight games over .500, Seattle (72-68) has lost the winning touch. Second baseman Jose Lopez went 3-for-4 and extended his personal career high in home runs with his 23rd and catcher Kenji Johjima slugged his eighth of the season.

But both of them were solo shots and were not enough to cut into an early deficit.

For Mariners right-hander Ian Snell, one win away from matching the longest winning streak of his career at five, the game could not have started much worse.

Between the first and second outs of the first inning, five consecutive batters reached base and four of them scored, putting the run-challenged Seattle offense behind the eight-ball right off the bat.

A walk and two singles produced the first run. A walk loaded the bases and a double into left-center delivered the final three runs in the uprising.

"I made some good pitches, but they are a good-hitting team so any good pitches around the plate they are going to hit," Snell said. "A lot of pitches were actually off the plate a little and they hit 'em."

Two pitches were the most instrumental in the inning.

With one out and a runner on first base, a ball that was grounded up the middle hit Snell, bounced high into the air, and turned into an infield single. Snell surrendered another single, walked in the first run of the inning and Kendry Morales smacked a bases-clearing double.

"When you fall four runs behind that early against a team like that, makes it awfully difficult to come back," Wakamatsu said. "It's a funny game. The ball that hit off his foot, we might have gotten one out with a chance of two on that ball and instead we give up four runs because of it."

Johjima took one swing in the third inning and gave Seattle its first hit and run off Jered Weaver, who had a walk-free, 6 1/3-inning outing.

Snell, on the other hand, walked five.

"I thought Snell settled down after the first inning and was pretty aggressive," Wakamatsu said. "He got through 5 1/3 and then lost it again a little bit."

Between the first and sixth innings, the Angels had just four batters reach base as Snell changed his approach. Instead of throwing predominately first-pitch fastballs, which he did in the first inning, he and Johjima changed it up and starting in the second inning used more variety.

"They are an aggressive team and hit the fastball better than off-speed pitches, so I started throwing a lot more curveballs and changeups to keep them off-balance," snell said.

Johjima's no-doubt-about-it drive into the fake rocks behind the fence in left-center field was his eighth home run of the season and chopped a run off the four-run gap. One out later, Ichiro bounced a single into right field.

The Mariners came within a highlight-reel play by Angels third baseman Chone Figgins of scoring again in the fourth inning. With Lopez on second and one out, Adrian Beltre drilled a shot that was headed down the left-field line.

But Figgins lunged for the ball, snagged it with a head-long dive to his right, got to his feet and made the out at first. Lopez reached third on the play, but was stranded there when Bill Hall struck out for the second of three times.

Lopez's home run in the sixth inning pulled Seattle to within two runs, but Angels left fielder Juan Rivera put the game away in the eighth with a two-run home run off left-handed reliever Jason Vargas, whose intention was to pitch around the slugger.

"We talked about pitching around him and he didn't make that good of a pitch," Wakamatsu said, "but I will take responsibility on that one. We walked Morales last night to bring up [Erick] Aybar and he gets the basehit to win the game, so you have that in the back of your mind.

"But we were trying to pitch around [Rivera] and ended up giving him too good of a pitch for him to hit."

The three-game series ends on Thursday night with, among other things, Ichiro trying again to reach 200. Ichiro is a .321 career hitter (26-for-81) against Angels starter John Lackey.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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