- Andrew Marchand, ESPNNewYork.com
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NEW YORK -- The only current player on the Yankees who can really needle Derek Jeter is Ichiro Suzuki. Ichiro is on the same legendary status as Jeter, so if Jeter gives it to Ichiro, Ichiro can go back at him. It is all done with smiles and good fun.
But when Jeter has teased Ichiro during batting practice this season, there has not been much for Ichiro to say. Jeter is constantly joshing teammates that they "can't leave," which means, basically, to hit the ball out of the park.
Since Ichiro hadn't gone deep in his 294 at-bats before Friday's third inning, Suzuki -- legend or not -- had no real retort for Jeter.
But one third-inning swing against Mark Buehrle -- a man he has owned in his career -- and Ichiro not only broke his homer slump, but had given the Yankees what turned out to be an insurmountable 6-4 lead.
It was the Yankees' fifth straight come-from-behind victory, and it was their 17 straight win at Yankee Stadium over the Toronto Blue Jays -- a win that pushed them to six games over .500 and gave them sole possession of the second AL wild-card spot.
Most memorably, Ichiro's homer also brought out this reaction from Jeter:
Derek Jeter with quite the reaction to Ichiro's first HR this season. https://t.co/lMCaIUWvg6
— Jimmy Traina (@JimmyTraina) July 26, 2014
"I thought he'd do something like that," Ichiro said.
Ichiro, however, may not be the Yankees' starting right fielder for long. If there is one position the club will most likely reinforce before this time next week, it is probably right field. They need more power than what Ichiro -- who has a .327 slugging percentage and 14 RBIs in 89 games -- can provide.
"This is what I got," manager Joe Girardi said of adding power in right. "I always tell you, I don't get into that. I believe these guys are capable of doing that and we'll keep trying. Now, if we add something, we add something. That's not my job. My job is to manage the guys in the room."
Ichiro is the starting right fielder until general manager Brian Cashman either makes a deal or calls up hot-hitting Triple-A prospect Rob Refsnyder.
Led by the anomaly of Ichiro's first homer, Friday night was a rather weird game. In the first three innings, there were four homers (Jose Bautista hit two, and Carlos Beltran had a solo shot), but after Ichiro's long ball, the scoring stopped.
Hiroki Kuroda settled down. He "fought," in the words of Girardi. He put the Yankees down early 3-0 in the first and 4-2 after 2½ innings, but Ichiro resuscitated his start.
"It was a huge homer," said Kuroda, who ended up going 5⅔ innings and allowing four runs, all on Bautista homers. "That sort of put me back to life, in a sense."
It was one that Ichiro needed to get everyone off his back. Ichiro, who likes to crack jokes during interviews, even made light of the YES broadcast booth.
"Obviously, I know the stats going in," Ichiro said. "Now, that [my home run total] is not a zero, maybe Michael Kay will be easy on me."
Maybe Jeter will, too.
"He always tells me, 'Can't leave,' during batting practice, which means the ball doesn't leave the ballpark," Ichiro said.
Ichiro finally left, and, as a result, he kept the Yankees hot.
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