Ichiro Suzuki is having the worst season of his career and his streak of consecutive 200-hit seasons is all but certain to end at 10, but manager Eric Wedge said yesterday that he has no plans to bench the 37-year-old right fielder down the stretch.
“We’re going to continue to give him opportunities at the top of the lineup as we play this out,” Wedge told Larry Stone of the Seattle Times. “As long as he’s physically able, I think he’s earned that.”
Wedge noted that it’s tough for the coaching staff to help Suzuki bust out of slumps because “it’s such a unique style” of hitting and “not something you can break down.”
Ichiro hit at least .300 with a .350 on-base percentage in each of his first 10 seasons, but is batting just .269 with a .307 OBP through 125 games and his .631 OPS is 116 points below his previous career-low. He’d need 59 hits in the Mariners’ final 36 games to reach 200 for the 11th straight season and prior to this year Suzuki averaged 51 hits per 36 games for his career.
I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.
Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.
This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.
Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.