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Ichiro reaches 3,500 career hits in defeat

Kyodo

Ichiro Suzuki topped 3,500 hits for his career in the majors and Japan combined after a 2-for-4 night against former All-Star teammate Cliff Lee and the Texas Rangers on Saturday.

Ichiro, who broke Isao Harimoto’s Japanese record of 3,085 hits in April last year, had an infield single in the first inning and reached on another infield single in his last at-bat as the Seattle Mariners went down 6-1 to the AL West leaders.

Ichiro downplayed the feat, saying it wasn’t much of an achievement to him. He now has 3,501 hits in 19 years of baseball on both sides of the Pacific.

“The whole Japan-majors combined thing is kind of a weird one,” Ichiro said. “Me personally, I don’t see this as much of a milestone in my career.”

The 36-year-old Ichiro had 1,278 hits in nine seasons with the then Orix BlueWave before moving stateside in 2001.

Only five players in major league history have totaled 3,500 hits, including the all-time leader Pete Rose, who amassed 4,256 hits over his 24-year career.

Ichiro’s former Seattle teammate and Hanshin Tigers catcher Kenji Johjima marveled at how the All-Star performs year in, year out.

“In this game, it’s very difficult to build on what you achieve from the previous year,” Johjima said. “But Ichiro finds a way to do that every season.

“It seems like he breaks some kind of record every year. What he does is amazing.”

Los Angeles Angels’ Hideki Matsui and Baltimore Orioles closer Koji Uehara, who won the 2006 World Baseball Classic with Ichiro, echoed Johjima’s sentiments.

“I can’t begin to fathom how tough it must be for him to actually go out and do what he does,” Matsui said. “It’s unreal.”

Said Uehara: “I’m sure it’s nothing more than a check point for him, but it’s incredible. Ichiro-san is in a league of his own and I hope he can get 4,000, 4,500 hits — and he probably could do it.”