Ichiro Suzuki is creating new playoff memories
BALTIMORE -- Ichiro Suzuki rounded third base last night and channeled his inner matador.
In Game 2 of the American League Division Series, Ichiro came charging down the line on Robinson Cano's first-inning double. When Orioles catcher Matt Wieters stretched to tag him, Suzuki barely escaped his reach, then reversed course. He dodged one more tag attempt, then slapped the plate with his right hand, dancing home with the Yankees' first run.
Just like that, Ichiro added one more postseason memory to what he hopes is a growing collection. He has wasted little time establishing himself in his first postseason series since 2001.
More than 47,000 fans jammed into Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Sunday night for the first playoff baseball here in a generation. A day later, Orioles GM Dan Duquette smiled as he recalled an atmosphere colored by "pent-up emotion."
Those emotions spilled out in the form of boos for the Yankees. But to Ichiro, the jeers sounded more like music.
"That felt really good," he said through an interpreter.
Even against Orioles lefthanded starter Wei-Yin Chen last night, Yankees manager Joe Girardi penciled Ichiro into what has become a familiar spot in the batting order, hitting second behind Derek Jeter.
"He's been getting on base," Girardi said. "You look at what he's done since he's been here, August, September, what he did against lefthanders in the month of September."
The Yankees originally intended to platoon Ichiro, protecting him against lefties. But since Sept. 1, he has had made a case for leaving him in. He's hitting .581 (18-for-31) with two home runs against the same lefthanded pitchers that gave him trouble with the Mariners.
"He's just been extremely productive, and he's been on base a lot for us," Girardi said. "So we decided to leave him there."
Despite background boos during Game 1, Ichiro relished the atmosphere. Orioles fans sat through a rain delay and didn't let up until the Yankees pulled away in the ninth.
Said Ichiro: "I didn't know how I was going to react."
Until Sunday, Ichiro's last playoff appearance came with the Mariners against the Yankees in 2001. It had been so long, he joked that his memories of the series had expired, much like the statute of limitations.
"If you commit a crime and it's been 10 years, sometimes it can be erased off your records," he said. "I don't remember really good things that happened. But I do remember that we lost to the Yankees. And I remember at that time not being able to imagine what it was like to keep going and move on in that postseason."
This time, Ichiro said the road ahead looks much more clear. He intends to make more memories. "Now, I think this team, we can see the future," he said. "And we can see where we're going."