One can praise Ichiro Suzuki for any number of things, from his .354 batting average to his outfield defense, but now there's this:
Albert Pujols batted second the other day for the St. Louis Cardinals, breaking a stretch of 1,046 games starting in the third spot of that lineup. That leaves Ichiro with the longest-running such streak in the majors - he's started 918 consecutives games as the leadoff hitter.
Last time he wasn't No. 1? That goes back to June 23, 2004, when then-manager Bob Melvin batted Ichiro third.
Well, Ichiro's in there again today as the leadoff hitter.
It's Felix Hernandez vs. Ben Sheets. First team to score wins....
- One out double for Daric Barton and a single by Ryan Sweeney put runners at first and third base. Kurt Suzuki singled home a run. A Kevin Kousmanoff grounded out, advancing both runners. Jack Cust struck out on Felix's 33rd pitch. After one: Oakland 1, Seattle 0.
- Oakland after Felix again in the second. With one out, AdamRosales singled and Rajai Davis - the Mariner killer - grounded a double just past Jose Lopez at third. Rob Johnson picked Rosales off third base. Felix struck out Cliff Pennington with his 55th pitch. After two: Oakland 1, Seattle 0.
- After bailing Felix out of a jam with a great throw, Johnson's one-out home run tied the game. Ichiro walked with two outs and stole second base, his 11th steal. Figgins grounded out. In the third: Seattle 1, Oakland 1.
- Sweeney singled with one out and Suzuki doubled him to third base. Kouzmanoff flied out. Cust singled both runners home. That's 73 pitches for Hernandez - and eight hits allowed. In the third: Oakland 3, Seattle 1.
- Casey Kotchman walked land, with one out, Johnson singled. Saunders struck out. Ichiro singled - but Johnson was thrown out at third base before Kotchman crossed home plate. No run.
- Through five innings, Felix has thrown 100 pitches and allowed 10 hits, never retiring Oakland in order. Oakland 3, Seattle 1.
- Figgins started the sixth with a double, Gutierrez walked. Lopez flied out, both runners advancing. Junior popped up. Kotchman singled, both runners scoring, and was thrown out at second. In the sixth: Seattle 3, Oakland 3.
- On Felix's 112th pitch, Pennington doubled with two outs and was in trouble yet again. With his 118th pitch, he got his 18th out. That's almost certainly it for Mr. Hernandez.
- Josh-not-Jack Wilson singled, then stole second base leading off the seventh. Johnson struck out. Saunders struck out. Ichiro was intentionally walked. Figgins singled Wilson home. In the seventh: Seattle 4, Oakland 3.
- Kanekoa Texeira now pitching for Seattle in the seventh. Sweeney singled, his fourth hit, and Suzuki was hit by a pitch. Sean White replaced Texeira. Kouzmanoff singled Sweeney home. Cust struck out. Chavez flied out, Suzuki scoring. Rosales and Davis beat out infield singles to load 'em up. Shawn Kelley now pitching. Pennington struck out. After seven: Oakland 5, Seattle 4.
- Griffey singled with one out, and Ryan Langerhans ran for him. Kotchman singled Langerhans to third. Andrew Baily now pitching for Oakland. Mike Sweeney pinch-hit for Wilson, and flied out to get Langerhans home. In the eighth: Seattle 5, Oakland 5.
- Saunders walked leading off the ninth inning. Ichiro forced Saunders. Figgins flied out. Gutierrez flied out. If they're going to win, it will be in extra innings. In the ninth: Seattle 5, Oakland 5.
- In the ninth, Kelley walked Kabe Gross with one out. Brandon League in to pitch. Gross stole second base as Chavez struck out. Rosales grounded out. To extra innings, Seattle 5, Oakland 5.
- In the 10th, a one-out walk put Pennington aboard. Barton flied to center field, and when Gutierrez hesitated before throwing, Pennington reached second base. A League wild pitch put Pennington at third, and Sweeney was intentionally walked. Suzuki singled home the game winner. It's a final: Oakland 6, Seattle 5.