MIAMI -- With a flick of his bat, Ichiro Suzuki moved three hits away from a major milestone, and in the context of Tuesday night, his single also brought Marlins Park to life and helped inspire Miami's 5-0 win over the Phillies.
Leading off the eighth inning, Ichiro sliced a pitch to left off right-hander Andrew Bailey as he inched closer to 3,000 for his Major League career. The hit energized a four-run inning that broke the game open.
"It livened the place up a lot with that hit," right fielder Giancarlo Stanton said. "It was definitely a big hit for us."
Ichiro stole second base and scored on Stanton's double.
The Marlins carried a 1-0 lead into the inning before gaining some breathing room.
"He's had a lot of huge hits for us," manager Don Mattingly said. "He's given us what we've needed."
Until the eighth, Ichiro had been frustrated on the night, going 0-for-3 against starter Jerad Eickhoff, including a long flyout to right field to open the first. Ichiro had been in an 0-for-7 rut before his single.
The fly ball in the first inning was a projected by Statcast™ at 394 feet with an exit velocity of 100 mph. It almost had home run distance, but right fielder Peter Bourjos ran it down before crashing into the wall. Bourjos also robbed Ichiro of extra bases last week at Philadelphia. But on Tuesday's, Bourjos exited with a right shoulder injury.
After Ichiro's single in the eighth, the hit counter switched to 2,997.
With the building buzzing as the Marlins scored four times, Ichiro actually had a second at-bat in the frame, but he flied out to left against Severino Gonzalez.
As he has closed in on 3,000, Ichiro has received loud ovations every time he has been introduced.
Getting the nod in center field in place of All-Star Marcell Ozuna, Ichiro made his first start since last Thursday in Philadelphia, when he went 2-for-5.
"We wanted to give guys breathers," Mattingly said. "Him to be able to get Ozuna off his feet, and hopefully get a little work, and with a 12 o'clock game [Wednesday], that gets him rested."
The Marlins wrap up their series with the Phillies at 12:10 p.m. ET on Wednesday, and Ichiro is not expected to start. The hope is to get him in the lineup at some point during the four-game series that begins on Thursday against the Cardinals.
In the first four games of the Marlins' 10-game homestand, Ichiro made four straight pinch-hit appearances and didn't log a hit.
Ichiro entered the season 65 hits shy of 3,000, and he is closing in on becoming the 30th player in Major League history to reach the milestone.
"This isn't a guy we're putting in there for no reason," Mattingly said. "When Ich has been playing, he's been in any type of big situation. When he's not in the lineup, he's usually in there with a guy in scoring position or the game on the line.
"We're trying to hold him for those spots. No matter if it's a lefty or righty, we like Ich up. This is not a guy who is just treading his way to 3,000. This guy has been helping us, big time."
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.