Boston Red Sox: Ichiro Suzuki

'Ichiro' Gonzalez? Believe it

May, 15, 2011
NEW YORK -- This will only add to the myth-making and legend-embellishing that is certain to accompany Adrian Gonzalez’s first season with the Red Sox, if this keeps up. It won’t be long, at this rate, before the Sox start drawing up plans to add another statue next to the one of another left-handed hitting machine from San Diego.

Giddiness becomes the order of the day when Gonzalez tells manager Terry Francona that he plans to swing like Ichiro on his fourth at-bat against Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia, who had handled him with ease to that point, then hits a three-run home run into the right-field seats.

“He amazes me,’’ Francona said after Gonzalez hit his fifh home run in his last four games and seventh in his last 11 to turn a close game into a 6-0 romp over the Yankees. “When you say you’re going to do it and then you do it, that’s pretty impressive.’’

Here’s how the conversation in the dugout went, according to Francona.

“He said he was going to have a little bit of Ichiro in him, a little bit of a leap,’’ Francona said. ‘’He said, ‘Do you have a problem with that?’ I said, ‘Not if you get a hit.’ ’’

How did the slugging Gonzalez model himself after the slap-hitting Ichiro Suzuki? He leaked, in the parlance of the game, starting his swing early in order to catch up with the high fastballs with which Sabathia was pounding him inside.

“When pitchers are beating me in,’’ Gonzalez said, “that’s what I do to create a little room inside, to make sure I don’t miss fastballs in.

“He was pounding me in. I wasn’t picking up the ball well. I was swinging at pitches I didn’t want to swing at. It’d be dumb of me to go up and try the same approach again.’’

The first two Sox hitters, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, had reached safely and were at the corners when Gonzalez came to the plate the first time. Sabathia struck him out with a neck-high fastball. The Yankee left-hander broke Gonzalez’s bat on his next two plate appearances, the second resulting in an inning-ending double play after Yankee manager Joe Girardi ordered Pedroia intentionally walked to load the bases.

“I would have done the same thing,’’ Gonzalez said. “Did you see the way I wasn’t picking up the ball? CC is a really tough pitcher against left-handed hitters. It’s a smart managerial move.’’

There were two outs and two on when Gonzalez came to the plate in the seventh inning after filling in Francona on his plan.

“I told him because he’s never seen me do it,’’ Gonzalez said. “Normally I don’t. I’ve probably done it in San Diego like 10 at-bats, but he’s never seen me do it. If I go up there and do it, he might be, ‘What’s this guy doing?’ ’’

So, did he get the raised eyebrows from the manager?

“He said, ‘You can try whatever you want, as long as you get a hit,’ ’’ Gonzalez said.

With a 1-and-0 count, Gonzalez went Japanese on Sabathia, jumping on another high fastball. The result was his ninth home run of the season, and raised his league-leading RBI total to 34, including a dozen in the last six games.

“How about that?’’ Francona said. “He even looked a little bit like Icihiro.’’

Matsuzaka vs. Ichiro: Ichiro gets off the mat

September, 14, 2010
SEATTLE -- There weren't thousands of flashbulbs popping when Daisuke Matsuzaka faced Ichiro Suzuki in the bottom of the first inning here Tuesday.

The novelty of two of Japan's most famous baseball stars going head-to-head has worn off, at least on this side of the Big Pond. And to date, Matsuzaka has had the better of it. In 2007, Ichiro was just 1-for-12 against Matsuzaka. In 2008, he had three hits in four at-bats. Last season, they didn't face each other. And when Ichiro flied out harmlessly to left in the first inning, that made him 0-for-4 this season against Matsuzaka.

Totals: 4 for 20, a .200 average.

Unfortunately for Matsuzaka, the night didn't end there. Ichiro walked in the third and doubled in a run in the fifth. He then singled to lead off the seventh, which was Terry Francona's signal to pull him for Hideki Okajima.

Ichiro has had a bad time against the entire Sox pitching staff this season: A lifetime .300 hitter against the Red Sox entering Tuesday night's game, he was batting just .194 (6-for-31) this season at the start of the night.

Matsuzaka also has won his head-to-head duels against the other Japanese icon, Hideki Matsui, who is 3-for-14 (.214) against Daisuke, though his hits include a double and triple.

Ortiz robbed

July, 23, 2010
SEATTLE -- Red Sox slugger David Ortiz came agonizingly close to recording his 19th homer of the season Thursday night at Safeco Field.

But Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki had other ideas.

With two outs in the top of the first inning, Ortiz absolutely crushed an offering from Seattle starter Ryan Rowland-Smith, and it appeared to be heading over the right-field wall before Ichiro made a dramatic leaping catch to rob Ortiz of a homer.

"That’s some [expletive], man,” Ortiz said. “That’s him. Next time I’ll make sure to hit that into the upper deck, he won’t get that one.”

Ortiz said he didn’t realize the ball had been caught until he rounded second base.

That play proved crucial given the fact the Mariners erased a five-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game at 6-6 before the Sox finally pulled it out in an 8-6 win in the 13th inning.