Ichiro gets walkoff hit in next-to-last game before trade deadline
Ichiro Suzuki had 1,952 major league hits before collecting one in the ninth inning Tuesday night, but none of them did what No. 1,953 did.
It was unremarkable enough to watch, a ball hit when it was about 2 centimeters off the ground and dumped into center field. What made this hit stand out was the fact that the game was tied at the time, there were two out and Seattle had the bases loaded.
The result was the first walkoff hit in the 8½-year career of the Seattle right fielder. On a night when the thermometer readings were as high as the emotions on the field, the Seattle bullpen emptied and jumped Ichiro between first and second base to celebrate a 4-3 win over Toronto.
Ichiro was delighted to get the win, which ended a four-game Seattle losing streak. But the 5-foot-9 170-pounder had no particular desire to be flattened by teammates and coaches after ending a four-game losing streak.
“The first guy who got to me was Mike Sweeney,” Ichiro said. “On a team full of guys who are like monsters, I don’t know how the slowest guy on the team got to me first.”
He backed out of the rugbylike scrum as quickly as he could. But considering that Seattle had lost its past four games by a combined 42-10, Ichiro’s teammates were in the mood to do some celebrating after Ichiro’s third hit of the game scored catcher Rob Johnson to break a 3-all tie.
Ichiro pointed to his upper chest and laughed, saying, “I may have to come in early (Wednesday) for treatment.”
The Mariners loaded the bases against Blue Jay lefty Scott Downs with no one out, but a soft grounder by pinch-hitter Jose Lopez and a strikeout by Ronny Cedeno left the Mariners one out from going to extra innings.
Ichiro’s swing, always unorthodox, was odd, even for him. With Downs trying to get him out on a curve almost in the dirt, Ichiro appeared to hold up his bat midswing before reaching down and putting a Roger Federer-like lob over the infield and in front of center fielder Vernon Wells.
Asked about the unusual swing, Ichiro said only, “It was as you saw it.”
Starting pitcher Jarrod Washburn, who won’t know until Friday’s trade deadline if he has made his last start for the Mariners, said the swing was, shall we say, unorthodox.
“It kind of looked like a kid’s swing,” Washburn said. “But Ichiro makes contact all the time, and it’s not always the prettiest swing that gets the job done. This one looked great.”
The fact that Ichiro had to go 8½ seasons before his first walkoff hit caught some in the Seattle clubhouse by surprise.
“That’s an amazing number,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “But I have noticed that sometimes in those situations, he opens up the strike zone more than he does in other at-bats. But it was a nice bit of hitting tonight.”
Washburn said, “I heard that number, and it’s crazy considering the number of hits Ichiro has.”
Washburn didn’t get the win; that went to closer David Aardsma, who pitched the ninth. But Washburn pitched seven innings, allowed just one run and now has reeled off five consecutive starts allowing either one run or zero runs. It has made him incredibly valuable to the Mariners. At the same time, it’s made him incredibly valuable as a trade commodity with the trade deadline coming up Friday.
“You can’t help thinking about it, but once you get on the field, it’s not in your mind anymore,” Washburn said. “You go out there and try to do your job.”
Washburn, who lowered his ERA to 2.64 with his effort, still could be traded, and no one knows that better than he. At the same time, he hasn’t talked with general manager Jack Zduriencik recently, and he hasn’t talked with his agent, Scott Boras, in about a month, so maybe no deal will come about.
On the other hand, catcher Jeff Clement was pulled out of Tuesday’s game in the third inning while playing for Triple-A Tacoma. That could mean that Clement is being traded, or it could mean that he’s coming to Seattle with someone else being traded.
“I know that he was pulled out of the game,” Wakamatsu said. “Beyond that, I don’t know anything.”