Ichiro ties record with 10th 200-hit season
Mariners superstar equals Rose's mark, extends own streak
TORONTO -- Ichiro Suzuki stroked a fifth-inning single to center to collect his 200th hit Thursday, extending his own record with his 10th straight season reaching the milestone. He set the record last year, passing Wee Willie Keeler. Ichiro also tied the record for 200-hit seasons in a career, with 10, which he now shares with Pete Rose.
The milestone hit came against Blue Jays starter Shawn Hill. The Blue Jays went on to win the game, 1-0, over the Mariners.
"I think you can imagine how happy I am," Ichiro said through a translator. "I know how tough it is to accomplish 200 hits every season, and it's been another tough one this year, so that's how happy I am inside."
The Mariners dugout, along with the fans at Rogers Centre, gave the Japanese native a standing ovation. Following roughly 30 seconds of applause, Ichiro removed his cap and acknowledged the crowd. The ball, fielded by center fielder Vernon Wells, was promptly retrieved by a Mariners staff member.
Ichiro entered the game with 198 hits. He picked up No. 199 with a third-inning double down the left-field line.
"Today, after I accomplished 200 hits, when I looked to the dugout everyone was celebrating, everyone was pretty happy," Ichiro said. "They were showing that [celebratory] feeling. That's when I finally felt like I could express my feelings in a good way, where I could say I'm happy for what I've achieved."
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Ichiro felt a sense of relief after reaching the mark, considering the high standard he's set for himself from the very beginning of his career.
"When you look at my rookie year, no one expected me to have 200-plus hits," Ichiro said. "I think if I [had been] at .260 or .270 with 180 hits, [everyone] would have said, 'Good job.' Now being in my shoes, I have to accomplish this. Because if I don't, people will say, 'How come you're not hitting anymore?'"
The record for most seasons with 200 hits had been in Rose's sole possession since Sept. 25, 1979, when he hit a first-inning single against Cardinals rookie right-hander John Fulgham at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.
Rose had shared that mark for one year with Ty Cobb, who had his ninth -- and last -- 200-hit season in 1924.
Rose was 38 years old and playing his 17th big league season. Cobb was 37 and in his 20th Major League campaign.
Ichiro, who will be 37 on Oct. 22, is playing in his 10th Major League season.
When asked if he would play until he was 50, Ichiro responded jokingly, "I don't know about 50, but maybe 55."
ichiro by the years
Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, who had a milestone day of his own, launching his 50th blast of the season off Mariners ace Felix Hernandez in the first inning, was elated to be a part of Ichiro's big day.
"It's unbelievable," Bautista said. "Fortunately, I got to witness that. He's a great hitter -- great hand-eye coordination. He can barrel balls in and out of the zone just like Vladimir Guerrero does, and he's got the speed element to go with it. He's just a great hitter. He has a nice swing. He keeps it in the zone a lot, and the most amazing thing to me is he actually starts running before he's done with his swing. To have the ability to swing and run at the same time, to me, is just amazing."
Despite amassing Hall of Fame credentials, including 2,230 career hits -- on top of another 1,278 hits in nine seasons in Japan -- Ichiro said each at-bat is as tough as the last.
"I've never experienced an easy hit before," Ichiro said. "And I've never taken it for granted."
James Hall is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.