The media contingent following the Seattle Mariners tonight is unique for the season. There's the usual FSN crew, there's ESPN/Mariners radio reporter Shannon Drayer and there's ... me.
Oh, and a few dozen Japanese reporters, broadcast and print.
The Japanese, of course, are following the Ichiro countdown to 200 hits. He begins this game with 193 for the season, seven short of tying the major league record for career 200-plus hit seasons (10) held by Pete Rose.
No one, of course, ever put together 10 consecutive 200 hit seasons. Ichiro will be the first, and the Japanese are treating it as they should - an astonishing run by the first Japanese position player in MLB history.
In truth, most of those reporters won't write much about this game. They're not here to cover Luke French's 11th start or Justin Smoak or the Mariners efforts to avoid losing 100 games.
They are here for one story, Ichiro, and each at-bat carries special significance, each hit inches him deeper into baseball history. In a season most consider lost, Ichiro remains an international star.
He'll be the first man to bat tonight.
- Make that 194 hits for the season. On the fourth pitch of the night, Ichiro singled sharply into left field, then took second base on a passed ball. Chone Figgins bunted Ichiro to third base. Jose Lopez singled into right field, driving Ichiro home for his 51st RBI. In the first: Seattle 1, Toronto 0.
- With two outs, Jose Bautista singled. Vernon Wells homered, his 28th. In the first: Toronto 2, Seattle 1.
- On an 0-1 pitch, Edwin Encarnacion hit his 15th home run. In the second: Toronto 3, Seattle 1.
- Make that 195 hits for Ichiro, this one a one-out slow roller that third baseman John McDonald couldn't come up with. That's Ichiro's 54th infield hit of the year. Figgins singled, Ichiro to second. Both runners moved up on a balk. Lopez grounded to McDonald, who caught Ichiro in a run down. Smoak grounded out. In the third: Toronto 3, Seattle 1.
- One-out single for Encarnacion, then a two-out home run for Travis Snider, his 10th. After four: Toronto 4, Seattle 1.
- Make that 196 hits for Ichiro, who looked like his butt was headed for the dugout as he singled up the middle. Amazing bat control. Amazing, period. Figgins walked. Lopez singled, scoring Ichiro. In the fifth: Toronto 4, Seattle 2.
- After seven innings, Luke French gave way to Garrett Olson. French allowed seven hits, three of them home runs.
- And in the end: Matt Tuiasosopo was credited with a double when his pop fly fell between a trio of Blue Jays. With two outs, Ichiro rolled his fourth hit of the night - and 197th of the season - off reliever Kevin Gregg's glove. Figgins singled, Tuiasosopo scoring. Lopez struck out. It's a final: Toronto 5, Seattle 3.