Ichiro Suzuki recorded more than 3,000 hits in the major leagues. But he did not record a walk-off hit until his ninth season. In 2009, Ichiro made up for lost time by recording three walk-off hits, all in the second half of the season.
The first one came on July 28, 2009 against the Blue Jays. The Mariners loaded the bases in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth, but Jose Lopez grounded into a force and Ronny Cedeno struck out. Ichiro got behind in the count 0-2, and per the AP game recap, he golfed a pitch that was nearly in the dirt into center field for the winning hit.
The next one came on September 17 against the White Sox. The Mariners trailed 3-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning, but rallied, tying the game on home runs by Lopez and Bill Hall in the ninth inning. In the 10th, Ichiro hit a ground-rule double, but was stranded at second base. The game stretched to the 14th inning, where after a single by Ryan Langerhans, Kenji Johjima was hit by a pitch. Ichiro, perhaps[ perturbed that his fellow countryman got dinged, singled on a 1-0 pitch to score Langerhans and win the game.
That was pretty good, but Ichiro saved the best of his walk-offs that season for last. The very next day, the Mariners and Yankees played a highly-entertaining game. This was the season that the Yankees would win the World Series, so to hold them to two runs through eight innings was a good accomplishment for Mariners ace Felix Hernandez. However, A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes combined to allow one Mariners run in that time. So the Yankees led 2-1 after eight innings and had their closer, Mariano Rivera, on to finish things off.
Rivera struck out the first two hitters looking, upping the Yankees win probability to 95 percent. But Mike Sweeney hit a first-pitch double that may have rattled Rivera. Ichiro was next and for the second straight day, he came through with a walk-off. But this one was a walk-off home run.
“It didn’t go where it was supposed to go,” Rivera told reporters regarding the pitch.
It sure did for Ichiro, who walked off a winner that day, and now walks off the field for good, headed sometime soon for the Hall of Fame.
Ichiro walk-off minutiae
Ichiro was one of five players to hit a walk-off home run vs Rivera and by far the most famous of them. The others are Bill Selby, Bill Mueller, Vernon Wells and Marco Scutaro.
When Ichiro is elected to the Hall of Fame, he’ll be one of two Hall-of-Famers who hit .400 against Rivera. Ichiro was 6-for-15 (exactly .400) against Rivera. His former teammate, Edgar Martinez, was 11-for-19 (.579).