Outfielder Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners participates in warmups during the workout session ahead of MLB Opening Game at Tokyo Dome on March 27, 2012 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)
The Mariners and Athletics took 11 innings in Tokyo to decide a winner, and Japan's Ichiro Suzuki was one of the hitting stars of the game.
For a while Wednesday evening (Wednesday morning, Seattle and Oakland time), it didn't look like anyone wanted to score in MLB's Opening Series game in the Tokyo Dome. So if you didn't want to get up at 3 a.m. PDT to watch, you didn't miss much until the late innings.
The Mariners' Dustin Ackley started the scoring with a home run in the fourth inning. You'd think he might have done the polite thing and let Ichiro Suzuki, who was playing his first official MLB game in his home country, do that, but Ichiro had other ideas -- he went 4-for-5, all singles.
Then the pitchers took over. All the Tokyo Dome fans (officially 44,227 of them) had to put their ThunderStix down for several innings, because Brandon McCarthy and Felix Hernandez shut the proverbial door. Have you ever been in a stadium where people are using ThunderStix? They sound like bees, only a lot larger. So perhaps the lack of offense was a good thing.
McCarthy left after the seventh, having given up six hits and Ackley's homer. King Felix left after the eighth, having given up five hits and that single run. Relief pitchers continued the dominance on both sides. The game headed to extra innings. In Japanese baseball's major leagues, games that reach 12 innings tied end that way (15 innings in their postseason). Would MLB provide Japanese fans with their first taste of a 13th inning?
They'll have to wait at least another day for that, because in the top of the 11th, Brendan Ryan led off with a double and was sacrificed to third. Ackley drove in his second run of the night (morning?) with a single, and after he stole second, Ichiro drove him in with his fourth hit. Brandon League gave up a single, but closed it out and the Mariners won 3-1.
Everyone's happy! Ichiro's a hero in his native land!
Everyone's happy, that is, except A's fans, whose team lost. A's fans who live in the Bay Area couldn't even watch the game, as it was blacked out there -- as if A's fans should have just headed out the door to the Tokyo Dome to attend the game in person. Somehow this must have something to do with preventing the A's from moving to San Jose.
The two teams will do this all again Thursday morning, except an hour earlier -- the game will start at 2:10 a.m. PDT. Seattle's Jason Vargas will face Oakland's Bartolo Colon.