Ichiro nears record with key pinch-hit
Miami veteran leads MLB with 26, sits two shy of all-time season mark
ATLANTA -- No stranger to setting milestones, Ichiro Suzuki is pushing closer to becoming Major League Baseball's all-time leader for single-season pinch-hits.
The 43-year-old came off the bench Thursday night to provide a timely two-out, RBI single that put the Marlins in front. But the Braves rallied for two in the ninth inning, and celebrated a 6-5 walk-off victory at SunTrust Park.
Before Kurt Suzuki's two-out, run-scoring single off Brad Ziegler, it was Ichiro who was in line for the game-winning hit.
Along with giving the Marlins a 5-4 lead in the eighth inning, Ichiro established an MLB record with 95 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter. Rusty Staub had 94 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter in 1983 with the Mets. Ichiro's 26 pinch-hits this year are tops in the Majors, and he's two away from the all-time mark. John Vander Wal had 28 in 1995 with the Rockies.
"That's the one chance that I get," Ichiro said through his interpreter. "The approach hasn't changed. What I have done is, just all the knowledge and experiences I've gotten over the years, I'm doing the same things I have been doing."
The Marlins have now lost 10 of 11 and five straight. But in the eighth inning, they capitalized on second baseman Ozzie Albies' error on Brian Anderson's ground ball. With two outs off Jose Ramirez, Ichiro floated a soft single to left, driving home Anderson.
One of the most accomplished hitters of his generation, Ichiro built his Hall of Fame-worthy career by ranking among the annual leaders in hits. His last single gives him 3,072 in his career.
The Marlins have one of the most productive outfield trios in the Majors. Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich have combined for 101 home runs. They're also playing almost every day, leaving limited chances for Ichiro.
As a reserve, Ichiro is preparing as if he will play, and he's often getting chances as a pinch-hitter.
"I don't think you can ever get used to a role like this," Ichiro said. "But you're kind of getting used to not getting used to it. I've learned enough to be able to go out there and do what I can."