The Mariners and Athletics are in Japan right now in the runup to this week’s two-game regular season series in the Tokyo Dome. The clubs have been playing exhibitions against Japanese teams prior to Wednesday and Thursday’s official contests.
As you likely know, Ichiro — who kinda but not really retired last season — went to camp with the Mariners this year and is on their roster. The unstated but assumed idea is that he will play the two games in Tokyo and then retire, having given a fitting sendoff from both the fans from his native country and the fans for the team with which he had his greatest triumphs in one fell swoop. It’d be hard to script that any better.
Part of that script is going to plan: Mariners manager Scott Servais confirmed today Ichiro Suzuki will be in the starting lineup against the Athletics, likely starting in right field. That’ll be a good reason to wake up at 5:30AM and watch the Japan Series games on ESPN this week.
I wonder, though, what might happen if he rakes in those two games. He, as always, has played it close to the vest, so we don’t know his intentions, but the Mariners, as you know, aren’t going anywhere this year as they rebuild. So it’s not like even a 45-year-old Ichiro would be a drag on their 2019 prospects if he, in fact, wants to play some more.
Can he play? I dunno. Based on what we saw of him last year and the year before, the bat just isn’t there anymore. But based on (a) his physical conditioning; and (b) his arm, it’s not necessarily the case that he’s completely done. I mean, check out this highlight from today’s exhibition game. The guy still has quite the hose:
The Yankees defeated the Astros 4-1 during Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night, staving off a potential postseason elimination and forcing the series to at least six games.
In just the third playoff appearance of his career, Yankees southpaw James Paxton turned in another impressive performance, limiting the Astros to four hits and four walks over six innings of one-run ball. According to MLB Stats, his nine strikeouts made him the second Yankees lefty to record multiple starts of 8+ strikeouts in the same postseason campaign, two decades after David Wells did so for the 1998 championship-winning club.
Paxton’s strong outing was backed by a handful of runs from DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Hicks, both of whom went deep against Astros ace Justin Verlander in the bottom of the first inning. LeMahieu’s leadoff solo shot marked his first postseason home run since Game 1 of the ALDS, while Hicks’ three-run 347-footer was his first home run of any variety since July 24 (and his first in the playoffs since the 2017 ALDS).
Neither team managed a single run after the first inning, leaving the two pitching staffs to duke it out for eight quick innings. Verlander outlasted Paxton — taking the game through the seventh with five hits, four runs, and nine strikeouts — but even with a flawless contribution from Brad Peacock in the eighth, there was little the hurlers could do to help the Astros solve Paxton and an airtight Yankees bullpen.
With the win, the Yankees will try to push the series to a full seven games in order to snatch the AL pennant from the Astros. They’ll have to do in Houston, however, as the Astros will regain home field advantage when Game 6 kicks off on Saturday at 8:08 PM EDT. Neither starter has been announced yet; per Houston skipper A.J. Hinch, it will likely be a bullpen day.