Mariners Top Athletics in Tokyo as Major League Season Opens

Ichiro Suzuki had four hits and Dustin Ackley added a home run and as the Seattle Mariners won 3-1 in 11 innings over the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo to open the Major League Baseball season.

Felix Hernandez gave up one run on five hits over eight innings as the teams began a two-game series at the Tokyo Dome. Hernandez, the 2010 Cy Young Award winner as the American League’s top pitcher, struck out six without issuing a walk.

Pregame ceremonies began with a tribute to the victims of last year’s tsunami in Japan, including Taylor Anderson, an American teacher who was killed after ensuring the safety of her students in Ishinomaki. Videos commemorating the March 11, 2011, disaster were played between innings and Anderson’s parents were part of first-pitch ceremony. Major League Baseball and U.S. officials also provided videos.

The tsunami, which hit Japan’s Pacific coastline 60 minutes after a magnitude-9 earthquake struck at 2:46 p.m., left 15,854 people dead and 3,272 missing, destroying entire towns, crippling a nuclear plant and leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless.

Both the Japanese and U.S. national anthems played before the game, and fans began entering the stadium three hours before the first pitch to watch batting practice.

Ackley hit a homer to right field in the fourth inning and added a run-scoring single to center in the 11th. After stealing second base, he scored on Ichiro’s fourth hit of the night, a single up the middle.

Ichiro Returns

Ichiro, who played for the Orix Blue Wave in Japan’s Pacific League for nine seasons before joining the Mariners in 2001, got the first hit of the season and 2,429th of his major- league career in the first inning. He batted third in the Mariners’ lineup, a switch from his previous role as a leadoff hitter.

Oakland’s lone run came on Kurt Suzuki’s fourth-inning double to left which scored shortstop Cliff Pennington.

Tom Wilhelmsen (1-0) pitched two scoreless innings for the win and Brandon League got the save. Brandon McCarthy gave up one run on six hits for the Athletics over seven innings. Andrew Carignan (0-1) took the loss, allowing both earned runs in the 11th.

The A’s, who are making their second trip to Japan in five seasons, haven’t had a winning record since 2006. Oakland opened its 2008 campaign in Japan against the Boston Red Sox, splitting a pair of games.

Opening Games

It was the ninth time the two teams had played each other to open the major-league season, with Seattle holding a 6-3 advantage.

The Mariners ties to Japan are strong. Besides Ichiro on the field, they are owned by Nintendo of America.

The teams had been scheduled to play in Tokyo in March 2003, but that series was canceled due to the threat of war in Iraq. Current Athletics manager Bob Melvin was then the manager of the Mariners.

This series marks the fourth season-opener in Japan and the first since the Red Sox and A’s played in 2008 at Tokyo Dome.

After their two games in Tokyo, the A’s return to the U.S. for four exhibition outings before playing their home opener on April 6 against the Mariners. The Mariners have their home opener the following Friday, April 13, against the A’s.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mason Levinson in New York at mlevinson@bloomberg.net; Stuart Biggs in Tokyo at sbiggs3@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net.

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