It was a surreal night at Safeco Field on Monday. That's putting it mildly, actually. It was downright bizarre. For the first time in his MLB career, Ichiro Suzuki was in the visitor's dugout in Seattle. He wore New York Yankees road greys with the number "31" on the back ... and, as is Yankees custom, no name. The Seattle Mariners came up on the losing end against their longtime hero, dropping the opener of this emotional three-game series by the final score of 4-1.
It was a night of gracious, tearful and respectful ovations for Suzuki, who was cheered when announced as a member of the New York starting lineup and later received a lasting, heartfelt standing ovation when he came to bat for the first time in the game and the first time as something other than a member of the Mariners. The ovation lasted so long that Suzuki doffed his helmet and thanked the crowd, bowing deeply. He then singled off of Kevin Millwood and stole a base, to more applause -- although by the time he stole second, the ovation was slightly mixed. This is to be expected, of course. It is a confusing thing to cheer lustily for the opponent, no matter how beloved.
And there can be no mistake about it, Ichiro was and will continue to be endlessly beloved by the Seattle fans. That much is certain. He recorded no further hits in the game and left two on base as the Yankees' No. 8 hitter, but from his emotional and moving speech prior to the game, to the final out, the love for the future Hall of Famer was undeniable at Safeco.
As for the game -- John Jaso drove in the first run (and the only Mariners run) with a single in the third inning, but the top of the fourth proved to be the difference, as the Yankees plated three runs against Kevin Millwood, on RBI hits from Mark Teixeira, Raul Ibanez (another old friend) and Andruw Jones. A leadoff home run in the top of the eighth from another familiar face -- Alex Rodriguez -- added a big insurance run for New York.
Ichiro put away a pop fly from Jesus Montero for the final out of the game and a fitting end note to begin this series.
Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda held the Mariners to just three hits and one walk in seven innings.
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