Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki extended his major league record for consecutive 200-hit seasons to 10 after going 2-for-5 against the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday.
Ichiro, who came into the game with 198 hits, also tied Pete Rose for the most career 200-hit seasons after hitting a double down the left field line in the third inning and singling up the middle in the fifth.
The 10-time All-Star began the streak in his rookie year in the major leagues in 2001. He said he is comfortable with the change in the way he has been treated by the media and people surrounding him in the process.
“I was often asked if I can get a hit in my first year, but now they say why I can’t get one when I don’t perform well. I feel pretty comfortable with how I’ve changed how I’m viewed by people surrounding me,” Ichiro said after the game at Rogers Center in Toronto.
He said the key to his success is a wide variety of hitting techniques, which enable him to hit varied pitches from many different types of pitchers.
“I’ve got options when I face pitches, even in an era in which they say pitchers get the upper hand on the hitters, and such options give me the depth in my hitting,” Ichiro said. “And, hopefully, I’ll go beyond (Rose’s) record” of 4,256 hits.
The Japanese baseball community, meanwhile, sang Ichiro’s praises after he accomplished the historic feat.
“I think it had to have been a tough year for him, having to carry the expectations of the entire world,” said world home run king Sadaharu Oh, who managed Ichiro at the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
“But he never showed it and got the job done in the end. He’s a source of pride and courage for the Japanese people,” Oh said.
Ichiro’s daily routine in preparing for games has become legendary among his peers, who marvel at his dedication.
Ichiro has landed on the disabled list just once in his decade at Seattle. Last year after winning the WBC, he started the season on the 15-day DL — with an ulcer.
He was also kept out with a calf injury late in the year, missing a total of 16 games in 2009 — the most Ichiro has missed in a single season since signing with Seattle in 2001.
“It’s simply the result of preparation and taking care of your body, day after day after day,” said the Los Angeles Angels’ Hideki Matsui, who has missed his share of games with a broken wrist and knee surgery.
Rose — the major league’s all-time hit king and the only other player with 10 200-hit seasons — recently said Ichiro was “the luckiest guy in the history of the world” for generating so many infield hits.
But Hanshin Tigers catcher Kenji Johjima, who played with Ichiro in Seattle from 2006 to 2009, begs to differ, saying that what the 10-time All-Star has achieved is no fluke.
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