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.
MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports that the Dodgers plan to tab ace Clayton Kershaw for Game 1 of the World Series. Nothing is set in stone yet ahead of Tuesday’s Game 1 of the World Series. In the event Kershaw can’t start Game 1, Rich Hill would start. Otherwise, Hill would start Game 4.
Kershaw, started Game 1 and Game 5 of the NLCS against the Brewers, then closed out Game 7 with a flawless inning. He was hit around to the tune of five runs (four earned) over three-plus innings in Game 1, but rebounded for seven innings of one-run ball in Game 5. He struck out two en route to sending the Dodgers to the World Series in the ninth inning of Game 7.
Kershaw also tossed eight shutout innings against the Braves in Game 2 of the NLDS. Overall, he has a 2.37 ERA in 19 innings this postseason. There was no doubt who would be the Dodgers’ first choice to start Game 1, but it’s a relatively recent situation where the ace of a team also closed out the final game of the previous series.
Hill has put up a 2.61 ERA in 10 1/3 innings this postseason. While he doesn’t have Kershaw’s pedigree, the Dodgers would be confident having him lead off the series. Hill was excellent down the stretch last year, helping the Dodgers reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Astros.
The Red Sox plan to start Chris Sale in Game 1 now that he’s recovered from a brief stint in the hospital due to a stomach ailment. The lefty has a 3.48 in 10 1/3 innings in the playoffs this year. He’s among a handful of candidates for the AL Cy Young award after posting a 2.11 ERA in the regular season, but his lack of innings (158) may hurt him.