TOKYO — Ichiro Suzuki announced his retirement from Major League Baseball on Thursday night. He was showered with cheers and chants while taking his final bow in a magnificent career that lasted nearly three decades. On top of that, the Seattle Mariners beat the Oakland Athletics, 5-4, in 12 innings.
Suzuki, 45, was 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 he grounded out.
Suzuki 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. Afterward, his announcement made his retirement official.
Domingo Santana, who hit a grand slam in Seattle’s 9-7 win in the opener on 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.
Suzuki was all smiles as he greeted his teammates after the final out.
A 10-time All-Star whose pro career began in his homeland in 1992 when he was 18, Suzuki 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.
Suzuki’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 Suzuki — the Mariners rookie was tearing up as he buried his head into Suzuki’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 four and two-thirds innings.
In a fitting scene — a passing of the torch, possibly — Suzuki caught a fly ball 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 the 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.
Shortstop Marcus Semien hit a run-scoring 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.