Ichiro Suzuki continued his methodical march to baseball immortality on Saturday night.
The rest of the Marlins continued to struggle against the best team in baseball.
Suzuki, 41, singled in his first two at-bats in a 6-2 loss against the Cardinals to surpass Ty Cobb’s career hit total of 4,191. The Japanese star pulled ahead of Cobb with his first-inning single to right field, drawing a standing ovation from the 44,706 fans at Busch Stadium and reciprocating with a tip of his batting helmet.
“I really wasn’t expecting the reaction that I did get,” Suzuki said through interpreter Allen Turner. “Obviously, the fans here are known to know their baseball and they’re very high-class fans, and I knew that coming in. I had to focus on my play for the next play, but obviously I was moved. … It definitely became a special place for me [Saturday night].”
The Marlins (46-70) didn’t have many other highlights against the Cardinals (75-41), who gave their sellout crowd much more to cheer about while putting themselves in position to sweep the three-game series. John Lackey recorded his 12th consecutive quality start — and added two hits offensively, including a run-scoring single — to lead the way.
Lackey, who threw 75 of his 114 pitches for strikes and improved to 10-7 this year, reached the 10-win mark for the 12th consecutive season. He held the Marlins to two runs and nine hits with six strikeouts and one walk in 81/3 innings, retiring nine batters in a row at one point.
Suzuki, who finished 2 for 4, hit his first single on the second pitch he saw from Lackey and added another on a third-inning line drive that went off the glove of leaping first baseman Mark Reynolds.
He now has 4,193 hits in his 24-year professional career. He recorded 1,278 in nine seasons with the Orix Blue Wave of Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan, and now has 2,915 in a 15-year major-league career with the Mariners, Yankees and Marlins.
Cobb retired in 1928 with 4,191 career hits. He ranks second on the majors’ all-time hits list behind Pete Rose, who had 4,256.
Ichiro said it’s for “people to talk about and decide for themselves” whether his hits in Japan should be considered when comparing his achievements to those of Cobb. Nonetheless, he expressed gratitude to be in such company.
“I go to the Hall of Fame. I’ve been there, and I’ve been able to touch his bat and read some of the letters he wrote,” he said. “I don’t know him too much, but now I want to go back to the Hall of Fame and be able to get to know him more and maybe look at more of his stuff.”
Marlins left-hander Brad Hand didn’t have his best stuff early on and fell to 2-3 after allowing six runs and 11 hits with five strikeouts and two walks in six innings.
Marlins center fielder Marcell Ozuna, recalled from Triple A New Orleans on Saturday as Christian Yelich was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right knee contusion, made an immediate impact in his return. He led off the second with a single to right field, raced to third on another single to right by Cole Gillespie and scored on a balk by Lackey.
Suzuki’s could make more memories in a Marlins uniform.
Manager Dan Jennings said before Saturday’s game that the organization has discussed bringing Suzuki back in 2016, when he’ll have a chance to reach the 3,000-hit mark as a major-league player.