Ichiro Suzuki was showered with cheers and chants while taking what appeared to be his final bow in a magnificent career that lasted nearly three decades Thursday night when the Seattle Mariners beat the Oakland Athletics 5-4 in 12 innings.
The 45-year-old Ichiro went 0 for 4 in the second game of the Major League Baseball season. He got a chance at a storybook ending at the jammed Tokyo Dome when he came up with two outs, a runner on second base and a tie score in the eighth inning, but grounded out.
Ichiro drew a huge ovation from fans and teammates when he was pulled from right field in the bottom of the eighth. The buzz from the sellout crowd of 45,000 diminished after his exit.
Domingo Santana, who hit a grand slam in Seattle’s 9-7 win in the opener Wednesday, beat out a double-play relay with the bases loaded to drive in the go-ahead run in the 12th.
Ryon Healy and Mitch Haniger homered for the Mariners, off to their first 2-0 start since opening 3-0 in 2014.
Khris Davis hit a two-out, two-run single with the bases loaded in the Oakland seventh to make it 4-all. Davis led the majors with 48 home runs last year and homered Wednesday. Davis struck out with the bases loaded to end the 11th.
Dee Gordon singled off losing pitcher Ryan Buchter to begin the Seattle 12th. He later scored on Santana’s one-out grounder when A’s shortstop Marcus Semien and second baseman Jurickson Profar were slow on the turn.
Zac Rosscup got the win and Hunter Strickland closed for his second save.
Ichiro was all smiles as he greeted his teammates after the final out.
The 10-time All-Star, whose pro career began in his homeland in 1992 when he was 18, took his spot in right field to begin the bottom of the eighth. He was then pulled to one more ovation, punctuating his walk with waves, tips of the hat and hugs as cameras flashed all around the park.
Ichiro’s teammates met him outside the dugout for a proper send-off in a three-minute tribute. Yusei Kikuchi, who pitched into the fifth inning of his major league debut, bowed to Ichiro — the Mariners rookie was tearing up as he buried his head into Ichiro’s shoulder.
Kikuchi became the first Japanese-born player to make his major league debut in Japan. Showing a firm fastball and sharp slider, the 27-year-old lefty gave up four hits in 4 2/3 innings.
In a fitting scene — a passing of the torch, possibly — Ichiro caught a flyball to end the fourth inning and Kikuchi waited for him outside the dugout for a fist bump. Kikuchi could be the next big star from Japan, having signed a contact in January that could be worth $109 million over seven years.
Kikuchi, who went to the same high school as Los Angeles Angels two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani, made his second pro start at the Tokyo Dome. He won with Seibu last June. Hiding the ball in his delivery, he often kept Oakland batters off-balance while striking out three and walking one.
Semien hit an RBI single on Kikuchi’s 91st and final pitch, making it 3-1. Roenis Elias relieved and got Matt Chapman to hit a comebacker, but first baseman Jay Bruce dropped the throw, allowing a run to score.
A’s starter Marco Estrada allowed three runs in five innings. The 35-year-old righty made his Oakland debut after going 7-14 with a career-worst 5.64 ERA last season for Toronto while hampered by hip and back problems.
Mariners: 1B Daniel Vogelbach didn’t start, a day after being hit in the left elbow by a pitch.
Athletics: Top A’s pitching prospect Jesus Luzardo will be shut down for four to six weeks because of a strained left shoulder. The 21-year-old was in the mix for a rotation spot.
Mariners: Back to spring training for the M’s. For the players who didn’t make the trip to Japan, there are exhibition games Thursday night in Arizona against the split-squad Reds and Friday night with the split-squad Angels. Seattle opens the regular season at home March 28 against the World Series champion Boston Red Sox.
Athletics: The A’s get a couple days off before resuming exhibition play Sunday at the Coliseum vs. San Francisco. Oakland begins the regular season March 28 at home against Mike Trout and the Angels.