Ichiro, Mariners win MLB opener in Japan

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Ichiro, Mariners win MLB opener in Japan

From Comcast SportsNet
TOKYO (AP) -- Ichiro Suzuki gave his fans in Japan a performance to cheer about. Suzuki had four hits in his return home, Dustin Ackley homered and singled in the go-ahead run in the 11th inning, and the Seattle Mariners beat the Oakland Athletics 3-1 Wednesday night in baseball's season opener. "It was very special to open in Japan," said Suzuki, who spent nine seasons in Osaka with the Orix Blue Wave. "I wanted to have fun and give the fans something at this special time and wanted to share a special moment with them." Major League Baseball and the players' association are using the series to assist rebuilding in Japan following last year's earthquake and tsunami. A group of players and coaches traveled to the disaster zone on Tuesday to conduct a baseball clinic. Felix Hernandez combined with two relievers on a six-hitter as MLB opened its season in Tokyo for the fourth time. The continent switch didn't help the A's, who became the first team to lose eight straight openers since Philadelphia from 1985-92, according to STATS LLC. Seattle and Oakland complete their two-game series Thursday. The rest of the big league teams start to get going April 4, when the renamed Miami Marlins open their new ballpark against the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals. A capacity crowd of 44,227 at Tokyo Dome was a sea of flashbulbs every time Suzuki came to bat. He got a standing ovation when he took his position in right field in the final inning. Dropped from leadoff to third in the batting order as he started his 12th big league season, Suzuki singled in the first when be beat shortstop Cliff Pennington's throw after his grounder over the mound was deflected by Oakland starter Brandon McCarthy. Suzuki singled on a grounder to shortstop in the fourth, singled to center in the sixth and had an RBI single to center in the 11th. "We're trying to stretch out the lineup and have the guys feed off each other," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "I think Ichiro hitting in the third spot is the right place. We're going to be a very offensive ballclub this year." The 38-year-old Suzuki set a big league record with 10 consecutive 200-hit seasons before falling short last year. "He's a hitting machine," said Oakland manager Bob Melvin, who managed Suzuki with the Mariners in 2003 and 2004. "It doesn't matter where he bats in the lineup. That's what he does -- hit." Ackley homered in the fourth off McCarthy, and Oakland's Kurt Suzuki doubled in a run in the bottom half. The score remained 1-1 until the 11th, when Brendan Ryan doubled against Andrew Carignan (0-1), Chone Figgins sacrificed and Ackley singled to center. "I was able to put a good swing on that one," Ackley said. "Our team is off to a good start, and that's all that matters." Jerry Blevins relieved, Ackley stole second and Ichiro Suzuki singled for a two-run lead. Brandon League closed it out for the save. Tom Wilhelmsen (1-0) got the win with two hitless innings. Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes, who signed a 36 million, four-year contract with Oakland, was 1 for 3 with a seventh-inning double and two strikeouts in his major league debut. Hernandez, coming off a 14-14 season, allowed five hits in eight innings, struck out six and walked none, throwing 104 pitches. McCarthy gave up one run and six hits in seven innings with three strikeouts and no walks. While Oakland threatened repeatedly, the A's were 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position. "They got bigger hits than we did at the end," Melvin said. "We hit some balls hard, but they just didn't get in." NOTES: It was 3:09 a.m. PDT when the game began. It was not televised live in the U.S. outside the markets of the teams involved, and was shown on a delayed basis by the MLB Network. ... Bartolo Colon starts Thursday the A's, opposed by Jason Vargas. ... The New York Mets and Chicago Cubs opened in Tokyo in 2000, followed by the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay (2004), and Boston and Oakland (2008). Seattle and Oakland had been scheduled to play at the Tokyo Dome in March 2003, but the series was scrapped because of the threat of war in Iraq. ... A pregame video presentation honored victims and survivors of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami. The video was narrated by Derek Jeter, Bobby Valentine and Cal Ripken Jr. ... The eight straight losses in openers is an A's record, one shy of the major league mark shared by the New York Giants (1893-1901) and Atlanta (1972-80).

First impressions: Owens improves, Scott scuffles

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First impressions: Owens improves, Scott scuffles

NEW YORK -- First impression from Red Sox' 5-1 loss to the Yankees:

* Henry Owens looked improved over earlier starts.

The lefty took the place of Drew Pomeranz Thursday night and pitched into the fifth inning, allowing two runs on four hits.

Talent evaluators believe that Owens has the stuff necessary to be a back-end starter in the big leagues if -- and that's a big qualifier -- he can command his pitches.

Alas, that's often been an issue for Owens, who averaged 3.4 walks per nine innings last season in Boston and, in four starts earlier this season, a bloated 9.3 walks per nine innings.

On Thursday night, Owens showed far better control, issuing just two walks. Further, he managed to pitch ahead in the count, giving him an advantage against the New York lineup. And mixing his changeup and fastball, he fanned six.

* Robby Scott had a bad night at a bad time.

Scott's in the mix to make the Red Sox post-season roster as a lefty specialist, competing against the likes of Fernando Abad.

He had been effective in most of his previous outings, with no runs allowed in six appearances with five strikeouts and a walk.

But brought in to face Brian McCann with runners on first and second and one out in the sixth, he yielded a single to center.

After getting Aaron Hicks on a flyout, he walked rookie Tyler Austin to force in a run, then heaved a wild pitch that scored another run before retiring Brett Gardner on a flyout.

Keeping in mind that Scott wouldn't be asked to face that many righthanders were he to make the post-season roster, Thursday's outing wasn't helpful in making his case.

* Yoan Moncada is gone for now.

The Red Sox announced that the rookie third baseman had traveled to Fort Myers to prepare for his upcoming assignment in the Arizona Fall League next month.

Expectations were high for Moncada when he joined the Red Sox on Labor Day weekend in Oakland and when he collected multiple hits in each of his first two starts, it appeared as though he would get most of the playing time at third for the remainder of the season.

But not long after, Moncada began chasing breaking balls out of the strike zone and looking very much overmatched at the plate. HE struck out in nine consecutive at-bats.

That doesn't mean that Moncada won't someday -- likely in the not-too-distant future -- be a very good major league player. But it is a reminder of how big a jump it is to go from Double A.

And, it served to point out how remarkable Andrew Benintendi has been in making that same jump.