The Mariners lost Saturday afternoon 6-5 to the Cleveland Indians, but the play heard ’round baseball belonged to Ichiro.
Seattle’s left fielder, who at 44 with little spring training figured to be a fielding liability, rose up to steal a home run from Jose Ramirez in the third inning at Safeco Field.
Ichiro tracked the high fly to the fence and timed his jump perfectly to get his glove around the ball just as it was leaving the field of play. The catch set off a roar among the 35,881 in-house.
Ichiro also had two hits, his first in 2018, after going hitless in 10 at-bats in Cactus League and 0-for-2 in the regular season opener Thursday. His seventh-inning bloop single pushed him past Cap Anson for 21st place on the all-time hits list with 3,082.
Ichiro won 10 Gold Gloves for his prowess in right field during his first tenure in Seattle from 2001 to 2012, but was signed March 2 to play left when starter Ben Gamel was put on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle.
The delight over Ichiro was tempered by a poor first outing from starter James Paxton, who gave up a grand slam to former Mariner Yonder Alonso in the first inning and a two-run shot to Yan Gomes in the third. Paxton surrendered four walks in 104 pitches and didn’t make it out of the fifth inning.
The Mariners also didn’t make it out of the game without another injury.
DH Nelson Cruz, who in the sixth hit a two-run homer, his second of the season, came out in the eighth because he twisted his right ankle in the dugout. The Mariners were already down a starting position player after C Mike Zunino went on the 10-day disabled list with a strained oblique, said to be grade one (mild).
After celebrating the homer with his teammates, Cruz walked down the steps toward the indoor batting cage and slipped, wrenching the ankle that had him in a protective boot post-game.
“He came down, doing the customary high-fives to everybody, everything was fine there,” manager Scott Servais told reporters. “Things settled down, he walked down back into the batting cage, slipped on the bottom step and twisted his ankle.
“Freak accident, kind of unbelievable at times, some of the things we’ve gone through here. We’ll try to stay positive and hopefully everything is OK.”