MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Sporting the same recognizable fall-away swing and plenty of speed at 42 years old, Ichiro Suzuki can still place base hits into the perfect spot in the outfield.
Soon, the tactic will have him reaching another milestone.
Suzuki had three hits and drove in a run, but the Miami Marlins lost 7-5 to the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night. With the performance, Suzuki is 29 hits away from 3,000 for his major league career.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Miami manager Don Mattingly said. “I have to stop talking about age with him. He just keeps doing it. And you keep doing it, you shouldn’t even have to talk about his age. The guy’s in great shape, he’s still a good defender, can steal a bag when you need it and he can hit. So this guy is still a really good player.”
Trevor Plouffe hit a two-run homer and had three RBIs for Minnesota, which also got solo home runs from Joe Mauer and Byung Ho Park. The Twins have hit seven home runs in the first two games of the series.
Marlins reliever Nick Wittgren (1-1) gave up two runs on four hits in 1 1/3 innings after starter Wei-Yin Chen allowed five runs in 5 1/3 innings.
“I think it’s not about the lineup, it’s me,” Chen said. “I didn’t do a good job pitching. If I pitch well, I think in the past they didn’t hit me that well. But if I pitch well, I can still hold them down. But today, I didn’t do a good job pitching.”
In the lineup as the designated hitter, Suzuki reached 2,971 major league hits and is 14 away from tying Sam Rice (2,985) for 30th in major league history. Including his 1,278 hits in Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan, Suzuki is seven hits away from Pete Rose’s career record of 4,256 hits.
Suzuki isn’t getting there solely on longevity. After hitting a career-low .229 in 153 games last year, Suzuki is hitting .330 this season.
“You never know how much playing time, you know with our young outfielders, it was going to be,” Mattingly said of Suzuki’s playing time. “You look at it sometimes and you think it’s going to be tough to get him at-bats. But you also know over the course of the baseball season guys are going to get hurt, guys are going to get nicked up. These American League games have kind of fit into him, the matchups.”
Taylor Rogers (2-0) pitched one inning, and six Twins relievers combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings. Brandon Kintzler earned his first career save in place of struggling closer Kevin Jepsen.
NOTHING FOR NOLASCO
Minnesota’s Ricky Nolasco made his first career start against his former club. He allowed 11 five runs on 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Nolasco made his major league debut in 2006 with the Marlins and was 81-72 with a 4.44 ERA in eight seasons in Miami.
“It was fun,” Nolasco said. “I was ready to go and ready to compete. I thought I kind of did everything I could do and didn’t catch a couple of breaks here and there.”
A pair of right-handers start in the final matchup of the three-game series as Ervin Santana (1-5, 4.50 ERA) starts for Minnesota against Tom Koehler (3-6, 4.50). Santana has lost his last three starts while allowing 14 runs in 16 2/3 innings. Koehler hasn’t allowed more than three runs in his last six starts.
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