Ichiro Suzuki gave his fans in Japan a performance to cheer about.
Suzuki had four hits in his return home, Dustin Ackley homered and singled in the go-ahead run in the 11th inning, and the Seattle Mariners beat the Oakland Athletics 3-1 Wednesday night in baseball’s season opener.
“It was very special to open in Japan,” said Suzuki, who spent nine seasons in Osaka with the Orix Blue Wave. “I wanted to have fun and give the fans something at this special time and wanted to share a special moment with them.”
Major League Baseball and the players’ association are using the series to assist rebuilding in Japan following last year’s earthquake and tsunami. A group of players and coaches traveled to the disaster zone on Tuesday to conduct a baseball clinic.
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Felix Hernandez combined with two relievers on a six-hitter as MLB opened its season in Tokyo for the fourth time. The continent switch didn’t help the A’s, who lost their eighth straight opener.
Seattle and Oakland complete their two-game series Thursday. The rest of the big league teams start to get going April 4, when the renamed Miami Marlins open their new ballpark against the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals.
A capacity crowd of 44,227 at Tokyo Dome was a sea of flashbulbs every time Suzuki came to bat. He got a standing ovation when he took his position in right field in the final inning.
Dropped from leadoff to third in the batting order as he started his 12th big league season, Suzuki singled in the first when be beat shortstop Cliff Pennington’s throw after his grounder over the mound was deflected by Oakland starter Brandon McCarthy.
Suzuki singled on a grounder to shortstop in the fourth, singled to center in the sixth and had an RBI single to center in the 11th.
“We’re trying to stretch out the lineup and have the guys feed off each other,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. “I think Ichiro hitting in the third spot is the right place. We’re going to be a very offensive ballclub this year.”
The 38-year-old Suzuki set a big league record with 10 consecutive 200-hit seasons before falling short last year.
“He’s a hitting machine,” said Oakland manager Bob Melvin, who managed Suzuki with the Mariners in 2003 and 2004. “It doesn’t matter where he bats in the lineup. That’s what he does – hit.”
Ackley homered in the fourth off McCarthy, and Oakland’s Kurt Suzuki doubled in a run in the bottom half. The score remained 1-1 until the 11th, when Brendan Ryan doubled against Andrew Carignan (0-1), Chone Figgins sacrificed and Ackley singled to center.
“I was able to put a good swing on that one,” Ackley said. “Our team is off to a good start, and that’s all that matters.”
Jerry Blevins relieved, Ackley stole second and Ichiro Suzuki singled for a two-run lead. Brandon League closed it out for the save.
Tom Wilhelmsen (1-0) got the win with two hitless innings.
Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes, who signed a $36 million, four-year contract with Oakland, was 1 for 3 with a seventh-inning double and two strikeouts in his major league debut.
Hernandez, coming off a 14-14 season, allowed five hits in eight innings, struck out six and walked none, throwing 104 pitches.
McCarthy gave up one run and six hits in seven innings with three strikeouts and no walks.
While Oakland threatened repeatedly, the A’s were 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position.
“They got bigger hits than we did at the end,” Melvin said. “We hit some balls hard, but they just didn’t get in.”
Atlanta: Jason Heyward hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning and Brandon Beachy pitched a spring-high six solid innings as the Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees tied 5-5 in 10 innings on Wednesday.
Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda had his longest outing, too, allowing two runs in seven innings. He struck out six.
Eric Chavez had three hits with a double and three RBIs for New York, boosting his average to .235.
Heyward lifted his average to .205 with two hits. Freddie Freeman also homered for Atlanta.
The Yankees led 5-3 going into the ninth, but Freeman walked and Heyward homered to deep right off George Kontos.
Chicago Cubs: Jeff Samardzija rebounded from a subpar effort in his previous start to give up three hits in six shutout innings and the Cubs held on for a 2-0 victory over Cleveland.
Samardzija also hit a triple to lead off the fifth inning but remained stranded.
The Cubs scored two runs on four hits in the sixth. Bryan LaHair and Joe Mather each drove in a run against Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin.
Leadoff man Jason Kipnis had two of the Indians' five hits, including a double.
Cincinnati: Reds setup man Nick Masset will start the season on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right shoulder.
Wednesday’s news comes five days after Cincinnati announced that closer Ryan Madson would have surgery.
Masset was held out for 12 days after feeling tightness after his March 7 outing in which he was removed after 2-3 of an inning. The right-hander returned March 19 and made his last appearance Thursday.
Masset says “there is no major damage.”
• Dan Haren and Bronson Arroyo made solid starts, and Ryan Ludwick's two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth gave the Reds a 5-4 victory over the Angels.
Haren threw 90 pitches in 5 2-3 innings for the Angels, allowing two runs and nine hits. He struck out two.
Arroyo worked six innings, his longest performance of the spring. He allowed two runs and four hits, including Vernon Wells' third homer.
Ludwick, trying to win playing time in left field, homered in the ninth off Loek Van Mil, who also walked Chris Heisey.
Jason Isringhausen, who is trying to win a job with the Angels, pitched a scoreless inning.
Cleveland: It may not help them win or hit any home runs, but the Indians have added some power.
The club began installation of an innovative wind turbine Wednesday on top of Progressive Field. The corkscrew-shaped structure, which was designed at Cleveland State, will be operating by opening day on April 5. The turbine was funded by grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and state.
The Indians are the first major league team to install a wind turbine. In 2007, the club was the first in the AL to install solar panels at its downtown ballpark.
The team hopes the turbine will cut costs, increase its use of renewable energy and potentially create new jobs in the region with the development of new technology.
The turbine is being mounted on the ballpark’s southeast corner.
Kansas City: Right-hander Felipe Paulino will begin the season on the 15-day disabled list with a sore elbow.
Paulino was competing for a rotation spot, but has been erratic in spring training. He’d allowed 10 runs and 13 hits in 9 2-3 innings in his last three appearances.
With Paulino out, left-hander Danny Duffy and right-hander Luis Mendoza, who is 4-0 with a 0.54 ERA this spring, will fill the final two slots in the rotation.
The Royals will likely start the season with five players on the disabled list, including closer Joakim Soria and catcher Salvador Perez.
Milwaukee: Zack Greinke scattered five hits over seven innings, doubled and drove in a run to help the Brewers beat the Diamondbacks 7-1.
Jonathan Lucroy, who signed a five-year contract on Tuesday, added three hits including a double and his second spring home run and also drove in three for Milwaukee.
Greinke gave up one run, walked one and struck out eight. His ERA ticked up to 0.93.
Arizona starter Wade Miley allowed seven runs on 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings with a walk and a strikeout. Seven of those hits came in succession during the Brewers' six-run fifth inning.
Ryan Roberts scored the lone run for the Diamondbacks, tripling with one out in the first and scoring on a grounder to first.
Minnesota: The Twins released injured right-hander Joel Zumaya.
The move was made on Wednesday to open another spot on the 40-man roster. Zumaya was trying to revive his career after missing the entire 2011 season because of elbow problems.
But the hard-throwing reliever hurt the joint again during his first bullpen session of spring training with his new team, tearing the ulnar collateral ligament. Zumaya was scheduled for Tommy John surgery on Thursday and will need a year to recover.
After a standout rookie year with the Detroit Tigers in 2006, Zumaya has not been able to pitch more than 39 innings in any season since because of arm injuries. He signed a one-year contract with the Twins for $400,000 guaranteed.
• Justin Morneau continued his recent resurgence at the plate, going 3 for 4 with a two-run home run in the Twins’ 11-7 win over the Phillies.
Morneau has spent time at designated hitter the last week, trying to recapture his swing. He’s also left the door open for a permanent shift away from first base. It’s working. The former American League MVP is 7 for 14 his last four games with a double and three home runs after a slow spring start.
The outburst came at the expense of Phillies starter Vance Worley, who gave up 11 runs – five earned – on 11 hits in four innings.
Francisco Liriano gave up two runs on eight hits in four innings for Minnesota. Luke Hughes, one of the infielders vying for a spot and waiting to see where Morneau plays, went 2 for 4 with a three-run home run, his team-leading fifth.
Hector Luna went 3 for 5 with a home run for Philadelphia.
New York Yankees: Right fielder Nick Swisher went 4-for-8 with a home run in his first game since being sidelined by a groin injury a week ago.
Swisher had two singles, a double and an opposite field home run to left. He had two walks, batting in both the top and bottom of the inning during the intrasquad game between Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Double-A Trenton on Wednesday.
Swisher left a game against Toronto on March 14 in the fifth because of left groin tightness. He returned six days later, but hurt his right groin running out a grounder during the third inning of game a with Pittsburgh.
Swisher said he had no discomfort during running and agility workouts in the outfield Wednesday. He could play in a major league spring training on Friday night.
San Diego: Yonder Alonso, Chase Headley and Andy Parrino homered to lead the Padres to a 13-2 victory over a split-squad of White Sox.
Headley hit a two-run drive for his third homer of the spring. He also had a two-run double.
Parrino's two-run shot was his fourth homer, and Alonso's solo drive was his first of the spring.
Padres starter Edinson Volquez gave up two runs and five hits in seven innings. He struck out two and walked three.
St. Louis: Adam Wainwright struggled for 4 2-3 innings in his final tuneup against big league hitters as the Cardinals beat the Tigers 9-5.
Wainwright, coming off reconstructive surgery on his right elbow that sidelined him for the entire 2011 season, had pitched 16 innings without allowing an earned run this spring before the Tigers broke through.
Wainwright allowed four runs, three of them earned, on six hits and a walk. His final outing before opening day is expected to be against Cardinals minor leaguers.
Jhonny Peralta broke a scoreless tie with an RBI single in the third. Andy Dirks later hit a two-run single.
Toronto: Omar Vizquel was added to the Toronto Blue Jays’ roster Wednesday a month before his 45th birthday, making the backup infielder the oldest active position player in the major leagues.
The 11-time Gold Glove winner had signed a minor league contract on Jan. 23. He spent the previous two years with the Chicago White Sox as a utilityman and mentor to younger players.
Vizquel turns 45 on April 24. The three-time All-Star shortstop from Venezuela is batting .433 in 15 spring games. He had a bunt single and scored a run in Toronto’s 9-3 victory Wednesday over Baltimore.
The Blue Jays optioned Mike McCoy, Vizquel’s primary competition, to Triple-A Las Vegas after the game.
Washington: Jordan Zimmermann pitched six shutout innings, Jayson Werth hit his fourth home run of the spring and the Nationals beat the Mets 3-2.
Werth led off the fourth inning with a shot over the left-field wall to help back Zimmermann’s best start of the spring. The right-hander allowed two hits, struck out two and didn’t walk a batter.
Mets starter Jon Niese gave up two runs on five hits and a walk in six innings. He struck out six.
The Mets scored in the seventh when Lucas Duda tripled to drive in Jason Bay, who returned to the lineup after sitting out two games with a bruised hand when he was hit by a pitch Sunday against the Nationals.
• Closer Drew Storen will start the season on the disabled list because of trouble in his right elbow.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Wednesday that Storen wouldn’t be ready for opening day on April 5.
Storen played catch Tuesday for the first time in a week and felt no pain in his inflamed elbow. But Johnson says the Nationals are going to be cautious with Storen and hoped he could return in mid-April.
Storen has pitched in two spring training games. He had 43 saves last season.