The Seattle Mariners rode a wave of “Ichiro-Mania” in Tokyo to beat the Oakland Athletics 3-1 in extra innings on Wednesday in the opening game of the Major League Baseball season.
Seattle’s victory means Oakland have now begun the last eight MLB seasons with a loss, the longest active opening day losing streak in the league.
Ichiro Suzuki caught fire early and finished 4-5 batting third for the first time after playing lead-off nearly all his career, driving in Seattle’s third run in the 11th inning.
Infielder Dustin Ackley had smashed a solo home run at the top of fourth but Oakland pegged the Mariners back when the other Suzuki, Kurt, drilled an RBI into left field at the bottom of the inning.
Ackley also drove in Seattle’s go-ahead run at the top of the 11th before Ichiro, as if it was scripted on his much-anticipated return to Japan, cracked a line drive to centre to score Ackley.
Felix Hernandez pitched eight innings for the Mariners, striking out six while surrendering one run and five hits in the first of two back-to-back games at Tokyo Dome.
Reliever Tom Wilhelmson was credited with the win, while Andrew Carignan took the loss for Oakland.
Seattle and Oakland were scheduled to meet in Tokyo in 2003, but the series was called off because of the threat of war in Iraq.