Ichiro Suzuki is now on top of the world.
Well, sort of.
With two hits on Wednesday afternoon, Ichiro passed Pete Rose for most career hits — but only if you count his numbers in Japan.
The 42-year-old outfielder for the Marlins squibbed a ball down the first-base line to start the game, just beating the throw for the historical hit, then lashed a two-out double in the ninth to pass the “Hit King.”
The crowd of 20,037 at Petco Park gave Ichiro a rousing ovation, and he responded by raising his helmet in a return salute.
“The hit to tie it was just a five-footer, so I was just hoping I would be able to get a clean hit,” Ichiro said of the double that put him over the top. “And I was just relieved that it was a good hit.”
Alas, the Marlins weren’t equal to the moment, missing out on a chance to sweep the Padres in their 6-3 loss at Petco Park. But the defeat was overshadowed by Ichiro’s momentous day.
Rose holds the majors’ all-time record with 4,256 hits.
Ichiro began the day at 4,255 — with 1,278 of those hits coming in Japan, where he launched his professional career.
More than 50 credentials were issued to Japanese media in San Diego to cover Ichiro’s assault on Rose’s mark, which will continue to stand as the official major-league record.
They didn’t have to wait long for Ichiro to stamp his own name in the books.
On the second pitch of the game from Padres starter Luis Perdomo, he swatted a dribbler down the first-base line. Catcher Derek Norris picked it up and fired to first. But Ichiro beat the throw.
After going hitless in his next three at-bats, Ichiro ripped a double to right off Fernando Rodney with two outs in the ninth.
“For me, it’s not about the record,” Ichiro said. “It’s about my teammates and the fans, the way they reacted. That meant a lot to me.”
Both balls that Ichiro swatted for hits Wednesday were thrown back to the Marlins’ dugout for safe-keeping.
Earlier in the week, Rose told USA Today that, while he respected Ichiro as a player, his Japan hits shouldn’t count in the overall total.
“It sounds like in Japan, they’re trying to make me the ‘Hit Queen,’ ” Rose scoffed. “I’m not trying to take anything away from Ichiro, he’s had a Hall of Fame career, but the next thing you know, they’ll be counting his high school hits.”
Those comments didn’t go unnoticed by Ichiro.
“Obviously, I’ve heard of Pete Rose’s comments,” he said. “I’ve heard that he wasn’t very happy about what they were saying about this record. To be honest, this wasn’t something that I was making as a goal. It was just kind of a weird situation to be in, just because of the combined [numbers].”
With 2,979 hits, the next major milestone for Ichiro is 3,000 — a mark that no one will challenge.
“Obviously, 3,000 is a no-doubter,” Ichiro said. “It’s a record here. So that is a goal, and I want to achieve it.”
Marlins officials, coaches and teammates were ecstatic with Ichiro’s latest achievement.
“If you could have 25 Ichiros, you would have 25 World Series rings,” Marlins president David Samson said. “He is a true, humble professional who works as hard when he’s 0 for 5 as when he’s 5 for 5. That skill cannot be taught.”
Said manager Don Mattingly: “It was fun to be here and be able to see this.”
It was another rough outing for Justin Nicolino, who was knocked out in the fifth after giving up five runs on 10 hits. Nicolino has now given up 31 hits over his past three starts.
The Marlins made good use of Ichiro’s milestone hit in the first when Christian Yelich drove him in for a 1-0 lead. The Marlins took a 3-1 lead in the fourth on J.T. Realmuto’s RBI single and Miguel Rojas’ sacrifice fly.
But Nicolino couldn’t make the lead stick. He gave up a run in the fourth, but his undoing came in the fifth when he gave up four consecutive hits — all coming with two outs.