By TJ Cotterill The News Tribune
SEATTLE — The former Seattle Mariner now with the New York Yankees listened to resounding boos each time he approached the plate Monday. Everything he did was met bitterly by Mariners fans.
That was Alex Rodriguez. Fans treated the recently departed Ichiro Suzuki far more kindly.
That’s because the players still wearing uniforms didn’t provide much reason for noise — other than the groans that have become so typical at SafeCo field.
While the attention was certainly on Ichiro, it was Rodriguez who kick-started a three-run fourth-inning and capped the Yankees 4-1 victory against the Mariners with a solo-home run in the eighth as the absence of Ichiro’s presence on Seattle’s roster did little to affect the Mariners’ struggles hitting at their home ballpark.
“It was nice to see the fans give Ichiro that type of recognition of respect with the ovation they did,” said Mariners manager Eric Wedge. “But we were trying to win a ballgame.”
The Mariners strung just three base hits against Yankee’s starter Hiroki Kuroda and struck out nine times against him.
Seattle’s continued struggles at home did little to appease the fans, whose loudest cheers were given to a player not even on Mariners roster anymore.
That was Ichiro.
Ichiro displayed for the Yankees what he has done for the Mariners the past 12 years — rake singles and run.
After acknowledging SafeCo Field with a bow his first plate appearance, Ichiro sent the second pitch he saw up the middle for his first hit in a Yankee uniform — following a franchise-best 2,532 with the Mariners.
Ichiro then showed the speed, as he took of for second base. The 38-year-old beat John Jaso’s throw and earned his 16th stolen base of the season.
He reached third on Russell Martin’s groundout, where he was left stranded as Dustin Ackley made an acrobatic play on a hard ground ball to his right to get Derek Jeter out at first and end the threat.
The Mariners spent little time sulking on Ichiro’s major league plate appearance in something other than a Mariner uniform.
Seattle scored the game’s first run the bottom half of the third. Ackley drew a walk — something Ichiro wasn’t known for doing too often — and stole second. Jaso send a hard ground ball to Ichiro in right field, who tried to get Ackley at home, but didn’t get it there in time as the Mariners took a 1-0 lead.
The Yankees quickly took it back as Rodriguez led off the top of the fourth with a double off the right field wall as was brought home on Mark Teixeira’s double two batters later. Raul Ibanez, another former Mariner who had his way with his former club last night, drove home Robinson Cano with a single.
New York tacked one more to the scoreboard and ended the inning with a 3-1 lead.
The Mariners were sent down in order in the bottom of the night as Rafael Soriano was just another of many former M’s to help the Yankees earn the win. He picked up the save as the Mariners batting average at SafeCo field fell to .194 — worst in all of baseball.