"During the game, it was kind of rough," said Ichiro of playing as a visitor at Safeco. "Now that it's over, I feel better now."
Ichiro delighted the crowd, which gave him a standing ovation as he walked to the plate for the first time in the third inning, by tipping his helmet and bowing. He brought a greater roar when he singled moments later, eventually stealing second and reaching third before being stranded.
"I figured that the fans were going to give him an ovation, and rightly so, so I just have no part in it," said Mariners starter Kevin Millwood of stepping off the mound to allow Ichiro the recognition. "I just wanted to be out of the way and let it happen and get on with the game."
But Ichiro stayed on everyone's mind throughout the game, even when the Mariners scored. Dustin Ackley walked and then stole second with two outs in the third inning. John Jaso hit a soft ground ball through the right side and Ackley came steaming home, easily beating the throw from Ichiro in right and giving the Mariners a 1-0 lead.
But that was all the Mariners could muster offensively, as Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda limited them to three hits and retired eight straight at one point. After going 5-2 on their latest road trip, the Mariners managed three hits and struck out 12 times, reaching base just once after the third inning.
"He had a feel for his slider," Brendan Ryan said of Kuroda. "He'd show you a couple different fastballs, so his slider's late, it's deceptive. Throw it at the right time, you get guys being a little too aggressive. [He] just mixed his pitches pretty well.
"I think we all felt like we didn't get what we wanted out of each at-bat. Just another case of guy throwing pretty well, but not hitting the pitch that you had to hit that at-bat. That's kind of what happens and that's what you saw."
The unfortunate pitcher on the receiving end of the dismal offensive performance was Millwood.
Millwood lost his third straight decision, and hasn't won since May 23 against Texas. The Mariners haven't won a game Millwood has started since June 16, when the veteran gave up four runs in five hits and was awarded a no-decision.
The Yankees grabbed the lead in the fourth as Mark Teixeira, Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones delivered successive RBI hits. Ichiro had an opportunity to drive in more as his second at-bat came with two on and one out, but the former Mariner sent a lazy pop fly to Ackley at second base.
Outside of the fourth, Millwood was able to work around nine hits and two walks to limit the damage at three runs. He twice stranded runners at third and used three double plays to pitch his way through seven innings on 102 pitches, striking out five.
But the story of the day wasn't another hard-luck loss for Millwood, or even another disappointing home performance by the offense. It was the Mariners' franchise player pulling on the gray road uniforms of the Yankees after a decade of entertaining baseball fans in Seattle -- and then immediately facing him.
"It was obviously different with Ichi being on the other side," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "I think everybody feels that way. That's baseball, what's done is done. From our standpoint, we're going out there and trying to win a ballgame. Nice to see the fans give him that type of recognition and respect and ovation like they did, but we were working to try to win a ballgame."