Mariners beat A's 9-7 with help from homers, a bat flip, and endless love for Ichiro

Yahoo Sports

The first pitch of the 2019 MLB season was thrown at 5:36 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, or 6:36 p.m. local time in Tokyo. Ladies and gentlemen, we have baseball.

There were a lot more 2019 firsts on the way to the Seattle Mariners’ 9-7 win over the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday morning. A’s starting pitcher Mike Fiers threw the season’s first strike. Seattle’s Jay Bruce got the season’s first hit. Fiers’ teammate Stephen Piscotty scored the season’s first run and hit 2019’s first home run at the same time.

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We’ll have to wait for our first pitcher’s duel, though. The crowd at the Tokyo Dome was treated to a bash fest, with 16 hits and five home runs between both teams. Seattle’s starter Marco Gonzales had a rough start, allowing four runs in his first three innings, but settled down and managed to throw three more scoreless innings.

Ichiro only played 3 1/2 innings, but he was the star of the Mariners-A's season opener in Tokyo. (Getty Images)
Ichiro only played 3 1/2 innings, but he was the star of the Mariners-A's season opener in Tokyo. (Getty Images)

It may have helped Gonzales that the Mariners had a lead for those final three innings. Fiers was pulled after a disastrous five-run third inning in which the Mariners showed off their power both at the plate and on the bases. Dee Gordon scored Seattle’s first run with a single, then stole second, and showed his intent to steal third. Fiers loaded the bases on a walk and a hit-by-pitch, and then watched Domingo Santana hit the season’s first grand slam.

It was far from the outing anyone expected, but Fiers was not responsible for serving up the pitch that led to the season’s first bat flip. That honor belongs to A’s reliever Ryan Dull, who sent Tim Beckham a pitch that he yanked into the stratosphere — with a glorious bat twirl to match.

That home run capped off a three-run fifth for the Mariners, giving them a 9-4 lead. The A’s made a valiant attempt at a comeback on a three-run home run from Matt Chapman in the seventh, but they couldn’t close the two-run gap before the final out of the ninth.

Despite the home runs and bat flips and the beginning of the 2019 season, all the focus was on Ichiro Suzuki. The 45-year-old was introduced to a thunderous ovation from the euphoric crowd.

The crowd went even crazier when he exited the game before the bottom of the fourth inning.

That’s not it for Ichiro and his illustrious career. He’s expected to start Thursday’s game (and even drew a walk in the fourth inning on Wednesday). But after that, no one knows. It’s possible that the innings he plays on Thursday could be his last. If that’s true, we know he’ll play every minute to its fullest, and it’s the fans’ job to enjoy every second of Ichiro we have left.

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