The Seattle Mariners won both games of a 2 game set against the Oakland Athletics, but the big news was the official retirement of Ichiro Suzuki. Last season, Ichiro came back to Seattle but quietly moved into a front office job without a real send off. In series of fortunate events, the Mariners got to open the MLB Season in Japan this week and Ichiro had the opportunity to join the squad to get a proper retirement in his home country.
Words can't describe the scene at the Tokyo Dome over 30 minutes after tonight's game ended.
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) March 21, 2019
The 7 time Japanese Pacific League batting champ left Japan in 2001 to join the Seattle Mariners. He left Japan as an idol—the caliber of a Wayne Gretzky or Michael Jordan—to a country that viewed him with skepticism. After all, no Japanese born position player had ever succeeded in the MLB. But, Ichiro was no ordinary baseball player, a wizard with the bat, he led the Mariners to a 116 win season and fashioned himself a place in the record books.
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) March 21, 2019
Known by just the one iconic name “Ichiro,” he has more combined major league hits than any other player in baseball history—if you add his Pacific League and MLB hits together. An artist in the batters box, he elicited comparisons to Wade Boggs but with the speed of Vince Coleman and the defense of Devon White.
When Ichiro comes to greet Kikuchi, Kikuchi bows to his mentor and you can at least hear Ichiro say to him, “Ganbatte ne. Ganbare yo.", meaning "Good luck, kid. Do your best!”. Kikuchi breaks down as he sees his hero and sempai say his farewell. (REDDIT) pic.twitter.com/J579kQ9QHz
— ً (@NYYDJ2) March 21, 2019
“For me it doesn’t get better than tonight,” Ichiro said through a translator. “Nothing can top what happened tonight for me.”
The 45 year old will retire as a certain Hall of Famer with 3,089 hits, .311 batting average, 509 steals, and for you new-fangled stats nerds 59 career WAR. Ichiro has 10 career All-star games, a Rookie of the Year, and an MVP to his name. As well, he led the MLB in batting average twice and hits 7 times. Ichiro even owns the single season hits record, breaking George Sisler’s record in 2004 with a mark of 262 hits.
There were some games by the way this week; a Mariners sweep in fact.
March 20th Game 1: Mariners 9 Athletics 7
The partisan fans in Tokyo came out to cheer on Ichiro but would be treated to fireworks from one of the newest Mariners, Domingo Santana. While the 45 year old Ichiro would become the 2nd oldest position player in MLB history, the 26 year old Santana would nail a grand salami off of Oakland’s Mike Fiers. Santana would drive in fellow newcomers Jay Bruce and Edwin Encarnacion (and hold over Dee Gordon) to showoff to M’s fans the new faces of the 2019 True to the Blue.
Fellow newcomer Tim Beckham would launch a 404 foot blast in the 5th to put the M’s in the lead; however, M’s pitching got a little bit shaky in the 7th inning. While Marco Gonzales went an uneven 6 inning 7 hit and 3 run game, his relief almost blew the game. Nick Rumbelow came in for the 7th and was light up by Matt Chapman for a 3 run dinger that kept the game close. Fortunately, the hefty lead proved enough to preserve the win for Marco this day.
March 21 Game 2: Mariners 5 Athletics 4
This would be the official game that saw Ichiro pulled in the 8th inning for his curtain call but the game would go much longer entering the 12th before the M’s pulled out the victory. Domingo Santana would have an Ichiro-like hustle play to beat out a double-play to allow Dee Gordon to score the winning run.
Mitch Haniger and Ryon Healy each had home runs to give the M’s a 3-0 lead early in the game. Things were looking good for the M’s as Yusei Kikuchi had the chance to start in front of his home country going 4 2/3 innings allowing just 1 run.
Unfortunately, the bullpen would collapse as Roenis Elias and Danny Altavilla would combine to allow to runs to allow the A’s back into the game. Former AquaSox Matt Festa would pitch 2 strong innings and newcomer closer Hunter Strickland would get his 2nd save of the season to secure the game.
The Mariners look good offensively, but will need to cleanup quite a bit on the mound if they are to perform any magic against the Boston Red Sox in their home opener in Seattle next Thursday 28th. In the meantime, M’s fans can revel in the 2-0 start and a chance to wish goodbye and reminisce about Ichiro.
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