Seattle, WA – Ichiro Suzuki may not get to 200 hits for the first time in his career, but he sure put a charge into Luke Hochevar's first pitch Thursday night.
Suzuki homered to right field leading off the bottom of the first inning and the Mariners got a two-run shot from Justin Smoak in a 4-1 win over the Kansas City Royals in the opener of this four-game series.
The homer by Suzuki gave him 5,000 career bases combined from his time in Japan (1,889) and in the majors. He's the 20th player to reach the feat, and that includes former Mariners Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez, the current third baseman for the Yankees.
"You don't see that very often," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "A first pitch curveball hit out of the park for a home run, you just don't see it. You'll see first pitch fastballs or guys trying to get ahead and guys ambush, but I thought it was a pretty good curveball. It did kind of get down into Ichiro's swing path, but you just don't see that very often."
Suzuki, who had two hits and scored twice, has 163 hits this season. The Mariners have just 20 games remaining, and time is running out for Suzuki to get his 11th straight season with at least 200 hits. He's tied with Pete Rose for the most 200-hit seasons in a career.
Jason Vargas (8-13) allowed just four hits and a run over six innings to win for only the second time in his last 12 starts.
"The story was the way he used his fastball tonight," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "He really stepped up for us."
Brandon League escaped a jam in the ninth for his 34th save.
Hochevar (10-11) was charged with six hits and four runs -- three earned -- with a season-high nine strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings.
The Mariners, who won for just the second time in eight games, also had good defense early in Thursday's game, as Jeff Francoeur was thrown out at the plate by second Dustin Ackley in the second inning.
Hosmer tied the game in the sixth when his line single to center scored Melky Cabrera, but Smoak put the M's on top in the bottom half. Ackley drew a leadoff walk, and one out later Smoak sent a ball over the wall in right for his first homer since June 12.
Suzuki singled and stole two bases in the seventh before scoring on a throwing error by shortstop Alcides Escobar.
The Royals put two men on base in the ninth inning, but Salvador Perez grounded into a force play to end the contest.
Prior to the game, the Mariners activated right-handed pitcher Dan Cortes from the 15-day disabled list. He had been on the DL since August 23 due to a bruised left ankle...This was Suzuki's 36th career leadoff homer, which is sixth all-time...The Mariners are 30-19 against the Royals at home since July 15, 1999.