SEATTLE – Ichiro Suzuki got the red carpet treatment from the Mariners on Monday night.
The Mariners weren’t nearly as kind to Tom Koehler.
Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning off Tom Koehler in a 6-1 loss to the Mariners at Safeco Field that snapped the Marlins’ three-game winning streak.
“This is one of those games where you’re really half way expected to be a little bit flat on our end from the standpoint of that last series, and you’re kind of looking for your starter to kind of calm it early,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “When you get behind early it puts us in a little bit of a bind.”
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From a video retrospective on the scoreboard of his greatest hits to framed pictures to a standing ovation from the 16,990 in attendance, Ichiro received the warm welcome everyone expected in his first trip back to Seattle as a member of the Marlins.
But soon after the pregame ceremony was over the Mariners took to hitting balls out of the yard.
Koehler gave up five runs overall over the first four innings as the Mariners tacked on two more on doubles by Cano and left fielder Jarrod Dyson.
“You just have to execute your pitches,” Koehler said. “With three [runs] you’re giving the team a shot. You start getting towards five it gets tough.”
Mariners’ starting pitcher Ariel Miranda, held the Marlins scoreless for seven innings (the longest of his career), did not walk any batters, and allowed only four hits – all singles – while striking out five.
Christian Yelich delivered the only Marlins’ run with a solo home run (his third of the season) in the ninth off Evan Scribner.
Koehler, who had given up three home runs over his first two starts this season, gave up his first non-solo homer when Cano connected on a changeup over the plate and sent it 441 feet to right center. Cruz followed with a solo homer to straight away center that traveled 410 feet to put the Mariners ahead 3-0.
Both of Seattle’s stars have gotten off to slow starts this season with Cano entering the game batting .212 and Cruz only .229.
Koehler gave up his five runs on seven hits and three walks (one intentional), and struck out five on 88 pitches.
“The one to Cano was a changeup that never faded out of the zone and he hit it well,” Koehler said. “To Cruz, it was a two-seamer in and it caught too much of the plate. After that you have to find a way to settle down and give your team a chance. Pitched out of some stuff there in the third, but just couldn’t get out of that fourth fast enough.”
Mariners shortstop Taylor Motter hit Seattle’s third home run of the game in the fifth inning off Jose Urena, who replaced Koehler.
But aside from that, Urena retired the other 12 batters he faced lasting the final four innings and giving the Marlins’ bullpen a much-needed breather an exhausting homestand that included a 16-inning game against the Mets.
“Jose saved us there,” Mattingly said. “It's not what we were looking for to start the trip but not using anyone else out there was the silver lining of the night. Tomorrow's the biggest day to see if it gets us back on track.”
Martin Prado played his first game of the season after being activated from the disabled list and recorded one of the Marlins’ four hits with a single to left center in the sixth.
Prado left the game in the seventh with a cramp in his right calf - the same muscle he said he aggravated when suffering his hamstring injury in mid-March.
“In that moment, running from first to third, I felt something tighten up,” Prado said. “I wanted to keep going, but Don [Mattingly] recommended taking care of it right now. Hopefully I feel better tomorrow.”
Ichiro, who spent 12 seasons with the Mariners from 2001-12, received ovations before each of his three at-bats and even one as he trotted back to the dugout in the eighth. In the bottom half of that inning, Ichiro got another hand from the crowd after he ran down a fly ball by Taylor Motter and made a leaping catch just in front of the left field wall.
It was the first time Ichiro ever played in left field at Safeco Field.
Monday night’s video montage showed some of Ichiro’s most notable hits including his record-breaker in 2004 with the Mariners that surpassed George Sisler’s single-season hits mark, as well as last season’s 3,000th hit in Colorado.
“It’s been so long that I could’ve been forgotten,” said Ichiro, who played at Seattle for the first time in three years. “For them to do that for me, I’m very thankful. It reaffirms that this is a special place.”