Ichiro Suzuki's two-run single in ninth beats Rays
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It wasn't that Phil Hughes lacked confidence in his teammates. But given the opposing pitcher, he figured his seventh-inning mistake would prove too costly to overcome.
"I thought the game was over,'' Hughes said. "Thankfully, the guys fought back.''
"Definitely a big win,'' said Ichiro Suzuki, who was front and center in the comeback.
The 39-year-old outfielder, who was hitting .200 with a .250 OBP, went 2-for-4. His two-out, two-run single in the ninth off closer Fernando Rodney's 99-mph fastball gave the Yankees a 4-2 lead.
"I haven't been able to do much,'' said Ichiro, who to the surprise of many received a two-year contract in the offseason. "Hopefully, things like this will get me past it and get me to be able to have a good year.''
Joe Girardi called it "a huge hit. Hopefully, it really gets him going, because we've seen that he can get extremely hot.''
Putting Ichiro in position to deliver was a team effort, starting with Hughes, who entered 0-2 with a 6.43 ERA after giving up five homers in his previous two starts. This time, he was very good, allowing two runs and six hits in seven innings.
"I felt like I had to pitch well,'' said Hughes who, because of the Rays' aggressive hitters, focused more on his offspeed stuff and was most pleased with those pitches. "I knew Price wasn't going to continue the way he's been throwing. You knew he was going to be tough.''
Price (0-2, 5.52) did pitch well but could not hold the 2-1 lead he'd been given. Hughes walked Matt Joyce to lead off the seventh, and he scored on Jose Molina's one-out single to right on a 92-mph fastball the righthander called "a bad pitch.''
But the Yankees (11-8) responded in the eighth against Price, who allowed three runs and eight hits. After Chris Stewart popped out, Ichiro grounded a single to right, and Jayson Nix's second single moved Ichiro, who was running, to third. With the infield back, Brett Gardner's chopper to second brought Ichiro in to tie it at 2.
Price was pulled after Robinson Cano led off the ninth with his second hit. Rodney struck out Vernon Wells as Cano stole second. After an intentional walk to pinch hitter Travis Hafner, Rodney walked Lyle Overbay to load the bases.
Stewart hit a flare into foul ground that first baseman James Loney caught for the second out. Ichiro jumped on Rodney's first pitch and sent it into center to drive in two runs to make it 4-2.
Mariano Rivera allowed a leadoff homer to Evan Longoria but still got his sixth save in as many chances. David Robertson (1-0), who threw a 1-2-3 eighth, picked up the win.
"We put some tough at-bats on some really tough pitchers,'' Girardi said of the ninth. He was particularly happy for Ichiro because of the age questions starting to become more prevalent with his early struggles.
"There's always going to be a couple of guys who get off to slow starts, and a lot of times there's no rhyme or reason who it is,'' Girardi said before smiling.
"But as we know around here, everyone's going to question who you are when you're older. If you're heavy, they question that, if you're old, they question that. So you're best off being in your prime and thin when you're struggling.''