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Ichiro one hit away from 4,000 lifetime

NEW YORK -- When Ichiro Suzuki came up to bat with two outs in the ninth inning of Tuesday afternoon's 8-4 Yankees win over the Blue Jays, the Yankee Stadium crowd began chanting his name. The outfielder was one hit away from reaching 4,000 for his career between Japan and the United States, and the 40,208 fans on hand were looking to witness history.

Ichiro didn't get hit No. 4,000 in the opener of the Yankees' doubleheader -- he grounded out to first base -- and he never got a chance to reach the milestone in Game 2 on Tuesday night.

Ichiro did play in Tuesday's nightcap, but he didn't get an at-bat. He entered the game in the bottom of the ninth as a pinch-runner for first baseman Mark Reynolds, who walked to lead off the inning. Ichiro moved to second on shortstop Eduardo Nunez's sac bunt and stole third not long after, eventually scoring on third baseman Jayson Nix's walk-off single.

"Ich did a good job of stealing the base," manager Joe Girardi said. "It changes everything for them. They have to bring the infield in. It puts more pressure on the pitcher. It changes it, when you have a runner on third with less than two outs."

Entering Tuesday's first game with 3,997 hits, Ichiro knocked a double in the third inning and a single in the seventh to get within one hit of 4,000. Only two players -- Pete Rose and Ty Cobb -- have reached 4,000 exclusively in the Major Leagues.

Ichiro had 1,278 hits over eight seasons in Japan, and he has 2,721 hits over 13 years in the Major Leagues, tying Lou Gehrig for 59th on the all-time list. Ichiro is batting .274 with six home runs and 29 RBIs this season.

"I'm excited to get a hit every time," Ichiro said. "And if my name is in that lineup [at some point] tonight, I'm definitely excited to get those at-bats so I can get some hits."

"I didn't have 4,000 hits in my whole career, and you can go back to Tee Ball," said Girardi, who accumulated 1,100 hits over his 15-year Major League career. "To me, it's an unbelievable feat. He's some kind of hitter."

He'll likely have a chance to get his 4,000th hit on Wednesday against Blue Jays right-hander R.A. Dickey.

"It's not just the 4,000; it's that you're getting a hit in a game," Ichiro said. "If you don't produce, you're not going to play in games. Producing in games is what's good for me. Four thousand is just as important as any other number, for me."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. Josh Vitale is an associate reporter for
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