Ichiro leads charge in extra-inning victory

Ichiro leads charge in extra-inning victory

Ichiro leads charge in extra-inning victory
PHOENIX -- Monday's day off obviously did Ichiro Suzuki a world of good.

Needing one hit to reach the 2,500 plateau for his 12 years in the Major Leagues since coming over from Japan, the lefty-swinging Ichiro had four in five at-bats. He reached the milestone with a bloop single to center field to open Tuesday night's game, a 12-9 Mariners victory over the D-backs in 10 innings at Chase Field.

"I thought the day off did him well," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "It's just something that he's got to understand that it's not a bad thing to get a day off now and again. I know what he's conditioned for and that he wants to play every single day. Ultimately, what we're looking for is to get the most out of everybody over 162 games. If I think a day off is good for him, then that's what we're going to do."

Was it ever good for him. Ichiro scored two runs, had two doubles and a pair of RBIs, knocking in the game-tying run on a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning. The Mariners scored three times in the 10th. Casper Wells drove in two runs to break the tie with a pinch-hit single, and Ichiro knocked him in with one of his doubles.

"You can imagine that what happened today is not out of ordinary," said Ichiro, who hasn't had a four-hit game since March 28 against the A's during the season opener in Tokyo. "I don't think I need to explain it."

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Seattle added a pair of three-run homers -- both coming in the fifth inning -- from Kyle Seager and Brendan Ryan. Justin Smoak also homered in a game that featured six of them.

Ichiro's big single came off D-backs starter Daniel Hudson, who didn't make it out of the fifth inning. Ichiro's sacrifice fly off reliever David Hernandez tied the score at 9 in the eighth inning.

Ichiro, 38, reached the milestone in the fourth fewest games. His 2,500th hit came in his 1,817th game. Al Simmons had 2,500 hits in 1,784 games, Ty Cobb in 1,790 and George Sisler in 1,808.

He also had 1,278 hits in seven seasons playing for the Orix BlueWave in Japan's Pacific League. Ichiro set the Major League record by amassing at least 200 hits a season his first 10 years after signing with the Mariners in 2001. So reaching this particular milestone was just another notch in his outstanding career.

"I've broke many records in the past 12 years," Ichiro said. "When I first got here in 2001 if I said my goal was to get 2,500 hits, people would say that I'm crazy. But now you look at it, thinking back, things do come true. Just like that first day there's still a passion inside to perform."

Ichiro's rare day off Monday came as the Mariners dropped a 7-1 decision to the D-backs. The final game of the three-game Interleague set is at 12:40 p.m. PT Wednesday. It was only his second day off of the season and third over the course of the past two seasons.

The move didn't sit well, and he brooded while sitting in front of his locker after that game. When told that Wedge had indicated it was best for him to get comfortable taking an occasional day off, Ichiro sounded philosophical.

"It kind of depends on how you're given that day off," he said. "[Monday] was very tough for me. I had my regrets because you want to go out there and perform. But then I understand the skipper's situation as well. Sometimes that becomes a motivation, too, wanting to come back."

Ichiro was animated enough on Tuesday night. After the milestone first-inning single, he was thrown out trying to steal second and scored after he doubled to open the third. He also scored on Seager's three-run homer, which came with none out in the fifth after Ichiro singled to center and Franklin Gutierrez walked. Ichiro's sacrifice fly drove in Ryan to tie the score at 9-9 in the eighth. And his second double which dropped just inside the left-field line, plated the game's final run in the 10th.

Ichiro said he has played beyond the praise and the criticism, particularly this year with his batting average at .265, 58 points below his lifetime mark of .323. This is the final year of his contract, and the question remains whether the Mariners will re-sign him to remain with the club in 2013 and beyond.

Ichiro said he is trying to take it all in stride.

"There are two things that come to mind," he said. "The passion and love for the game that kept me motivated up to this day. There was also the criticism that came along with that, that keeps burning in my heart and brought me to this day."

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.