It’s down to the last week of the regular season and the Yankees know they must continue to win ballgames in order to keep the resilient Baltimore Orioles from taking the division away from them. Ichiro Suzuki has played a major role for the Yankees in September, the kind of role that was envisioned in a best-case scenario when the team acquired him from the Seattle Mariners.
When the Yankees traded for Ichiro in late July, they were hoping to play him mostly in left field, bat ninth or occasionally leadoff in the lineup, and get a boost from a very good baseball player who is hungry to play again in the playoffs. Ichiro seemed to do just that for the team. He wasn’t spectacular, however he was simply doing the job asked of him. However, he has seen his playing time increase over the last couple of weeks and he’s absolutely locked in at the plate. The Yankees have found comfort in him hitting second behind Derek Jeter in the lineup and he’s basically now an everyday player.
The numbers tell the story for Ichiro since joining the Yankees. In 59 games with the Bombers Ichiro is hitting .326 with 62 hits and 12 stolen bases. He’s taken full advantage of playing in Yankee Stadium as he’s posted 5 home runs since joining the club, all at home. He’s doing it with his bat, the glove, and his legs. He’s surpassed expectations and seems to be turning it on at the right time for a team that is less than a week away from overcoming so much adversity and potentially reaching the postseason.
When Ichiro joined the Yankees, I noted how he didn’t need to be the superstar he once was in Seattle. The Yankees are already a team loaded with superstars and large salaries and they just needed him to basically be a productive role player. Ichiro may not be the electric superstar he once was in Seattle, however he’s giving the Yankees a pretty good modified version and they have been able to benefit from it down the stretch.
The Yankees know they are close to securing a playoff spot and Ichiro knows he is close to returning to the postseason for the first time since his rookie year in 2001. It would be a pretty good story. The way he’s swinging the bat lately, it sure looks like he’s determined to make that a reality.