The trade that brought Ichiro Suzuki to the Yankees was exciting. He was a ten-time all-star, extremely entertaining to watch, and had spent his entire career with one team. Then, he was coming to the Yankees. I was on vacation at the time, and made sure that I would be able to watch his first game with team where I was staying.
Frankly, Ichiro’s 2012 in pinstripes went pretty well. In his first at-bat as a Yankee, he singled, as you would expect. His .322 batting average was closer to the norm he set in the prime of his career, as opposed to what he had put up in the previous two seasons. He ran a 114 wRC+ and was a positive for the 2012 Yankees team that made it to the ALCS. By OPS, he was the best Yankee hitter that featured in all four ALCS losses to the Tigers.
The next two years after they re-signed him were less great, but this isn’t about those. His Hall of Fame career has come to an end, so let’s remember the good in Ichiro’s career. Let’s look back at his best night as a Yankee: August 19, 2012.
The Yankees were holding onto a six-game lead on the Rays in the AL East when they hosted the fourth-place Red Sox in a series starting on August 17th. The teams split the first two games of the set, which saw the Yankees’ lead drop to five games. As seems to happen for every Yankees-Red Sox weekend series, the final game was a Sunday Night Baseball game on ESPN.
(Note: the fact that the Yankees were up that much is pretty incredible when you look at the lineup they ran out there that night. Eric Chavez hit fifth. Yes, he was good as a Yankee, but still. Casey McGehee was the designated hitter in this game. Casey McGehee.)
Hiroki Kuroda was on the mound for the Yankees, and in the middle of a stretch where he allowed just eight runs in 51.2 innings across seven starts. He held true to that form, allowing one run in eight innings on four hits. However, he was only one of the game’s stars that night.
With the Yankees up 2-0 in the fourth, Ichiro stepped to the plate with two outs in the inning. On the fourth pitch of the at-bat, he got ahold of a Josh Beckett pitch and sent a home run into the second deck in right field.
The next time he came up was two innings later in the sixth. Despite being down 3-0 and having loaded the bases in the fifth, Beckett remained in the game as Bobby Valentine stuck by him. That was a mistake. On the second pitch of the at-bat, Ichiro again took a pitch into the seats in right field. That one also may have also into the second deck had it gone out a couple dozen feet to the right.
The Red Sox got one run back, but Rafael Soriano eventually closed out a 4-1 win.
I was in attendance that night, and it was one of my favorite games I’ve ever attended. A non-Yankee legend who I had grown up watching was wearing a Yankees uniform and had just done something really cool. He had only seven multi-home run games in his career, and I was lucky enough to be there for one of them.