video thumbnail

SEA@OAK: Ichiro matches Mariners' Opening Day record

TOKYO -- Ichiro Suzuki racked up four hits -- including an RBI single in the 11th inning -- as Seattle's right fielder had a homecoming to remember in a 3-1 victory for the Mariners in the first game of the Japan Opening Series with the A's on Wednesday.

Second baseman Dustin Ackley drove in Seattle's other two runs with a home run in the fourth and the go-ahead single in the 11th, while Felix Hernandez pitched eight innings of one-run ball.

"More than the four hits, it was more being able to enjoy the atmosphere with the fans," Ichiro said through interpreter Antony Suzuki in the cramped Tokyo Dome visitors' clubhouse. "Being there with the same feelings, that was special to me. That's what will stay in my heart."

The Mariners received much of the Tokyo Dome support despite the A's playing as the "home team" in this two-game set, thanks in large part to Ichiro's presence. But the 12-year MLB veteran was pleased the crowd of 44,227 provided strong support for all the players in their first experience with Japanese fans.

"Seeing how they welcomed the players, they were very warm-hearted," Ichiro said. "That makes you cry."

The Mariners were thrilled to be part of Ichiro's party on this night.

"Welcome home, huh?" said reliever Tom Wilhelmsen, the winning pitcher with two shutout innings of relief. "What a great show for the fans and obviously for us and the team. It's just amazing. Felix is the king of Seattle and Washington. But this is just something un-Godly. [Ichiro] was just amazing, and I'm happy he was able to get those four hits and put on the show he did."

Ackley put on a pretty good show of his own, going 2-for-5 with his team's first two RBIs, including the solo smash off A's starter Brandon McCarthy leading off the fourth.

"The first thing I thought of when I got back to the dugout was that I was leading the Major Leagues in home runs," Ackley said. "It might be the coolest thing I've ever done in my life. So to be a part of that and to be a part of this winning team and the game tonight in extra innings, it was awesome."

After Brendan Ryan led off the top of the 11th with a double, he was sacrificed to third by Chone Figgins and then driven home by a single up the middle by Ackley to give Seattle a 2-1 lead.

"He's just a good hitter," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "He's going to be one of the better middle-infield hitters in the league at some point in time."

Wilhelmsen pitched two hitless frames in the ninth and 10th, and closer Brandon League slammed the door in the 11th. But Hernandez once again did the yeoman's work to get his team in position to pull out its sixth straight Opening Day victory.

Hernandez gave up five hits and one run in his fifth Opening Day start and is now 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA in season openers. The 25-year-old threw a complete-game victory on Opening Day against the A's in Oakland last year, giving up five hits and two runs in a 6-2 win, and was equally dominant in this one.

"It was a great win, and it was an honor to pitch here in Tokyo," Hernandez said. "It's been unbelievable to be here. Great fans and everything. Everyone worked together and it was a great win for us. And all the fans in the stadium, that was pretty good, man. That was awesome."

Hernandez gave up a run in the bottom of the fourth on a pair of doubles by Cliff Pennington and Kurt Suzuki, but otherwise shut down the A's on just three other hits in his eight innings of duty.

The Mariners' six straight Opening Day wins is the longest streak in the Majors. The D-backs and Pirates have won five straight heading into their openers next week.

It was Seattle's fifth extra-inning affair on Opening Day and first since 1996, with the club's record now 4-1 in those games.

The two teams square off again Thursday in the Tokyo Dome at 2:04 a.m. PT, then return home to the United States after a week in Japan. The Mariners will return to Cactus League action for five games before facing the A's again to resume the regular season in Oakland on April 6.

Hitting in his new third spot in the order, Ichiro finished 4-for-5 as he tied Ken Griffey Jr's team record for Opening Day hits, set in 1990. The 38-year-old moved past Griffey for the franchise lead for most career Opening Day hits with 17, three more than Griffey.

Ichiro capped his day with the fourth hit, a single to center that scored Ackley for the 3-1 lead and sent fans home happy for their returning hero, who was greeted by a cascade of camera flashes from every part of the stadium every time he stepped to the plate.

"That was pretty crazy, the flashbulbs and the crowd," Pennington said. "I know they announced no flash photography before the game, but I guess that memo was missed."

MLB.com Comments