Yu's countrymen share in excitement of debut

Yu's countrymen share in excitement of debut

Yu's countrymen share in excitement of debut
ARLINGTON -- Ichiro Suzuki has no idea how his first showdown with Yu Darvish played back home in Japan. He rightly pointed out that he's not there.

But he does know how much attention the newest Japanese sensation's Major League debut received Monday night at Rangers Ballpark. That was clear with the horde of American and Japanese reporters in town for Darvish's first Major League start.

"Obviously, we had much more media today, so that kind of showed me," Ichiro said.

Ichiro won the first battle, but Darvish and the Rangers won the war. Ichiro had three hits off of his countryman, but the Rangers rallied from a four-run deficit to win, 11-5, with Darvish hanging around the get the win. He allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings.

Ichiro, who at 38 is 13 years older than Darvish, and Mariners second baseman Munenori Kawasaki -- a teammate of Darvish's on Japan's World Baseball Classic team in 2009 -- combined for four hits in eight at-bats and reached base a total of nine times against their countryman.

They played key roles in the Mariners' four-run first inning -- Darvish used 42 pitches against 10 batters. Darvish gave up his first big league hit to Ichiro, an opposite-field single to left. Ichiro later scored on Miguel Olivo's flare into right field to make it 3-0 Mariners.

Kawasaki followed by walking on four pitches, all four-seam fastballs to the 5-foot-10 second baseman, with the bases loaded to force in the fourth run of the inning.

Ichiro had a one-out double to right in the second and scored on Kyle Seager's two-out double to right. Ichiro later had a two-out single in the sixth, the last batter Darvish faced as he battled back after the miserable first inning.

Ichiro, who had never faced Darvish before Monday night while amassing 3,706 hits in Japan and the Major Leagues -- 2,437 in the big leagues -- said it was odd facing his countryman for the first time.

"It was hard because you don't know much about him besides looking at video," Ichiro said. "So all you can do is trust in your routine, what you do daily, and go from there. It's just like for you to interview someone you don't know at all. It's very tough.

"It's hard for me to compare him, him being good or bad. Today was the first time we faced him."

Kawasaki had his hit in the third inning, an Ichiro-like single up the middle in which he guided the ball just to the right of Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler with a flick of the bat.

Kawasaki said after the game that he was very excited and happy to face Darvish.

"It felt strange because we got to face each other here in the Majors, which was very strange," Kawasaki said. "I'm a senior, he's a junior of mine. That's how I look at it. Seniority."

Ichiro said he was impressed more with Darvish's dissatisfaction with his first start than with his actual pitching and ability to bounce back after a rocky first inning.

"My impression was good," Ichiro said. "Not his pitching, but just in general after he was taken out of the game. You saw the crowd with the standing ovation but he didn't tip his cap. You could tell he wasn't very happy, satisfied with his pitching. That shows pride and that's a good mentality. That's what I liked about him."

The competitor in Ichiro wasn't happy that the Mariners had the bases loaded with one out in the top of the first, with a chance to knock Darvish out of the game, and they didn't add to their 4-0 lead. Ichiro was asked specifically about the wasted chance after the game.

"I don't think I need to answer that question," Ichiro said, and he walked off.

Darvish shouldn't be judged on his first start, Kawasaki said. He said he expects Darvish to be a star in the Major Leagues.

"He's been a great pitcher back in Japan, and I'm sure he'll be very successful here," Kawasaki said. "I'm sure that he'll pick it up and he'll do much better as we move forward."

Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.