Ichiro Suzuki took his place in the Seattle Mariners’ starting lineup one more time on Wednesday, as he contributed to his team’s 9-7 win over the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo.
The 45-year-old Ichiro suited up for the Mariners in the opening game of the MLB regular season, after playing just 15 games for Seattle in 2018.
Ichiro Suits Up for Japanese Fans
It’s highly likely that Ichiro’s two games in Japan will mark the end of his MLB career. While no official announcement has been made, it appears unlikely that Ichiro would make the Mariners’ 25-man roster when they return to the United States.
But that hardly mattered to the crowd, which got to see one of the legends of Japanese baseball take the diamond one last time.
“Seven years ago, it appeared he had played for the last time in Japan,” Japanese Association of Baseball Research head Fumihiro Fujisawa told The Associated Press. “I don’t think anybody believed he would be active now.”
At his advanced age and having gone only 2-for-31 in spring training, Ichiro was slotted into the ninth position in the Mariners’ lineup. The outfielder popped out in the third inning with a runner on second, but managed to draw a walk in the fourth inning to get on base.
In the bottom of the fourth, Ichiro was allowed to take his position in the outfield before being pulled from the game in a moment reminiscent of David Wright’s sendoff by the Mets late last season. While it took the Japanese crowd a moment to realize what was happening, Ichiro eventually received a loud ovation while being hugged by his teammates.
“The fans in Japan probably aren’t used to the reception I got from my teammates, but it’s not that unusual in the majors,” Ichiro told reporters after the game.
Despite the sendoff, Japanese fans are likely to see Ichiro at least one more time. Mariners manager Scott Servais has said that Ichiro will get into the Mariners’ second game – also in Tokyo – on Thursday, though he might come off the bench in a pinch-hitting role.
Mariners Blast Fiers to Earn Opening Day Win
While Ichiro’s swan song may have been the biggest story of the night, there was something at stake for both teams, as this was a regular season game that counted in the standings.
The A’s jumped out to a 2-0 lead early, but the Mariners were able to chase Oakland starter Mike Fiers from the game by scoring five times in the third inning. Seattle starter Marco Gonzales settled in after some early trouble to throw six innings and allow four runs to earn the win.
“The third inning kind of got away,” Fiers told the Mercury News afterwards. “A lot of deep counts and one big hit from Domingo [Santana] kind of got me there. It definitely hurts. I make a pitch and get out of the inning, who knows what happens?”
Ichiro is now in his 19th MLB season after beginning his professional career by playing nine years with the Orix Blue Wave in Japan. Over the course of his career in the majors, Ichiro has batted .311 and compiled 3,089 hits.