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Games of the Decade: August 7, 2016

Ichiro Suzuki gets his 3,000th major league hit in a Marlins road win.

Miami Marlins vs. Colorado Rockies

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The “Games of the Decade” series is a collaborative process between the Fish Stripes staff and audience. Please continue recommending games that deserve to be rewatched!

Marlins 10, Rockies 7—August 7, 2016

Starting Lineups

Behind every MLB transaction, there are multiple motivating factors. But in the case of Ichiro Suzuki, one obvious objective stood above all the others: the 3,000-hit milestone. That’s why Miami offered him a guaranteed contract at age 41, and why his age-42 club option was exercised despite coming off the worst season of his career.

Ichiro had actually surpassed 4,000 total hits before joining the squad when accounting for his gaudy production in Japan’s highest professional league. However, racking up 3,000 in Major League Baseball competition, for whatever arbitrary reason, validates the player as an inner-circle legend. The Marlins had never employed such a player before and cherished the opportunity to celebrate (and monetize) the pursuit.

It was no secret that the Marlins preferred for Ichiro to get No. 3,000 in a home game. That would juice up ticket prices and allow for them to make the moment special with a prepared tribute to him.

On the other hand, Don Mattingly was managing to win. Buyers at the recent non-waiver trade deadline, the Marlins entered Aug. 7 at 58-52, tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for the second National League Wild Card spot. And their opponent for this Sunday matinee could not be taken lightly—the Colorado Rockies had won 12 of their last 16 games overall to emerge as a postseason contender themselves.

Ichiro had come off the bench in seven straight contests. Saturday’s pinch-hit, infield single moved him within one of the hallowed mark. But Mattingly wanted Marcell Ozuna to use the road finale to rest up for the stretch run and inserted the future Hall of Famer in his place as the starting center fielder.

First plate appearance—Ichiro steps in against Jon Gray, the most important pitcher for the Rockies during their recent hot streak. Gray catches too much of the plate with a curveball, but Ichiro swings too early and pulls it foul. On the fifth pitch, the right-hander finishes off the battle with a strikeout.

Second plate appearance—Ichiro falls behind in the count 0-2. He takes a defensive swing on a pitch below the strike zone, grounding it back to Gray for the routine out.

Third plate appearance—A Giancarlo Stanton home run just chased Gray to the showers and the Marlins’ lead has swelled to 8-1. Ichiro has thrived against left-handed pitchers in 2016, but the Rockies bring in Chris Rusin anyway. They have never faced one another before. “I think this is it right here,” Preston Wilson predicts from the broadcast booth, “I really do. Just my gut feeling.” Unfortunately, it’s another soft grounder up the middle, handled by Cristhian Adames.

Fourth plate appearance—Nolan Arenado and the Rockies have mounted a comeback to make this interesting. The Marlins sorely need some insurance, and Ichiro is ready to get this monkey off his back. A triple for No. 3,000?! You bet.

Nice ovation, but both teams got back to business within a couple minutes. Ichiro came around to score to pad the lead to 9-6. Leading off the top of the ninth, he drew a walk. Final score: Marlins 10, Rockies 7.

Full FOX Sports Florida game broadcast (with Rich Waltz, Preston Wilson and Jessica Blaylock)

TL;DW (Too Long; Didn’t Watch)

Win Probability Chart
  • Some obscure trivia for you: Who was the first Marlins player to greet Ichiro with a congratulatory hug? Dee Gordon.
  • Watching the full celebration, who may be wondering where the exuberant José Fernández is. He was scheduled to start the following night in Miami and flew back home early. That’s common practice for pitchers in these situations.
  • Derek Jeter had zero connection to the Marlins at the time, though he was friends with Ichiro, a former Yankees teammate. As mentioned by Jessica Blaylock in the fourth inning of the television broadcast, Jeter published a tribute to “Ichi” on The Players’ Tribune earlier in the week to welcome him into the 3,000-hit club, gushing about his consistency and sense of humor:

My hat’s off to Ichiro. He’s a guy who comes around once in a lifetime. No one’s ever seen anybody like him. And to be quite honest, we probably won’t see anybody like him again.

The “Games of the Decade” series is also available as a YouTube playlist (games listed there in chronological order)