The former Seattle Mariner now with the New York Yankees listened to resounding boos each time he approached the plate Monday at Safeco Field.
Of course, Alex Rodriguez is used to that treatment.
Fans treated the recently departed Ichiro Suzuki far more kindly.
While the attention focused on Ichiro, Rodriguez’s double sparked a three-run fourth-inning and capped the Yankees’ 4-1 victory against the Mariners with a solo-home run in the eighth.
The absence of Ichiro in the lineup did little to change the Mariners’ struggles hitting at their home ballpark.
The Mariners strung together just three base hits and struck out nine times against Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda.
Seattle’s continued struggles at home did little to appease the fans, whose loudest cheers were given to a player not even on the Mariners’ roster anymore.
That was Ichiro.
But Ichiro wasn’t the only Mariners’ regular to be sent to a different team.
Justin Smoak was optioned to the Tacoma Rainiers after the game, in which he batted 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts to drop his average to .191.
Smoak hasn’t produced the way the Mariners had hoped since coming over in a trade that sent Cliff Lee to the Texas Rangers in 2010.
“It’s just one of those things where you got to keep working,” Smoak said. “I have to go down there and get things right. Now it’s a matter of getting a feel and getting where I want to be.”
The Mariners are hoping Smoak can follow Casper Wells’ example. Wells has been one of the team’s top hitters since being being called up from the Rainiers in June after starting the season in Seattle and later being demoted.
“I’m just going to try to get into a routine,” Smoak said. “I’ve been searching for a while. It will be nice because you can take more of a deep breath down there.”
Ichiro had no trouble getting acclimated with the Yankees. He demonstrated the same tools he used in 11-plus seasons with the Mariners – slap singles and speed.
After acknowledging Safeco Field with a bow, Ichiro sent the second pitch he saw up the middle for his first hit in a Yankee uniform – following a franchise-best 2,533 with the Mariners.
Ichiro then showed the speed, as he took of for second base. The 38-year-old beat John Jaso’s throw and earned his 16th stolen base of the season.
He reached third on Russell Martin’s groundout, but was left stranded when Mariners second baseman Dustin Ackley made an acrobatic play on a hard grounder to his right to throw Derek Jeter out at first and end the threat.
Seattle spent little time sulking about Ichiro’s early success in a Yankees uniform.
Seattle scored the game’s first run in the bottom half of the third. Ackley drew a walk – something Ichiro wasn’t known for doing too often – and stole second. Jaso send a hard ground ball to Ichiro in right field, and the All-Star outfielder tried to get Ackley at home, but the throw was off line and the Mariners took a 1-0 lead.
The Yankees quickly rebounded as Rodriguez led off the top of the fourth with a double off the right-field wall and scored on Mark Teixeira’s double. Former Mariners outfielder Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones added run-scoring singles to give New York a 3-1 lead in the inning.
Seattle never mounted a serious threat the rest of the way. In fact the Mariners were shown the door by another ex-Mariner, Rafael Soriano, who set Seattle down in order in the bottom of the ninth. The closer picked up the save as the Mariners’ home batting average fell to .194 at Safeco Field – worst in all of baseball.
The Mariners called up Mike Carp from the Rainiers and he will be with the team today when it takes on the Yankees in the second game of the series.
The Mariners’ Felix Hernandez (8-5, 2.82 ERA) will oppose another former Mariner, Freddy Garcia (4-3, 5.37 ERA), at 7:10 p.m. today. Root Sports will televise.