Ichiro Suzuki used an accordion-style hand fan to cool off while standing in front of his locker and answering reporters’ questions Monday night.
It seemed appropriate given his night.
Suzuki added three more hits and a pair of walks to his burgeoning career totals in the Marlins’ 13-4 rout, putting him closer to two major milestones in the 42-year-old icon’s illustrious baseball life.
Monday’s hits raised his big-league total to 2,977 on his way to 3,000.
But, when combined with his 1,278 hits in Japan, the grand total of 4,255 left him one shy of Pete Rose’s major-league record, which explains why nearly 50 credentials were issued to Japanese reporters in San Diego.
It’s big news in Japan, and it has rankled baseball’s Hit King.
“It sounds like in Japan, they’re trying to make me the Hit Queen,” Rose scoffed in a USA Today article published Monday. “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.”
The ever-humble Suzuki has said all along that others can interpret the feat any way they like. He’s not driven by it.
“I think people that are watching are the ones that are really thinking about it,” Suzuki said through his translator. “I’m just out there doing what I need to do, and what I can do.”
Incredibly, he’s still doing quite a bit.
Suzuki is now hitting .350 which, if he had enough at bats to qualify, would rank him second in the National League.
Monday’s performance was vintage Suzuki. He walked his first time up and singled twice in the third inning alone when the Marlins sent 12 to the plate in a seven-run barrage. It marked the fourth time in his career — and first since 2006 — that he had as many as two hits in an inning.
He later added another single and walk, meaning he reached base in five of his six plate appearances. Suzuki, who started in right in place of slumping slugger Giancarlo Stanton, also flashed his still-exceptional speed when he raced into the gap and came up with Matt Kemp’s deep fly ball.
“It’s been cool to be a part of watching him this year,” said Marlins manager Don Mattingly. “I was a fan right away of his. Watching him play, and now getting to see this up close is nice to see. It’s been fun to have him.”
It’s now only a matter of time that Suzuki passes Rose and then gets to 3,000.
And then he can be left alone simply to play and enjoy the game he loves.
“There are, I guess, a little more media that’s here now, so hopefully I can get it [the Rose mark] fast so that they can go back home,” Suzuki said, referring to the contingent of Japanese reporters, gently waving his fan one last time before walking out of the clubhouse for the night.
The Marlins established season highs for runs (13) and hits (19) in their blowout win over the Padres.
But lost in the onslaught was the pitching of Wei-Yin Chen, who gave up four homers. All of them were solo shots. Chen became the first pitcher in Marlins history to give up as many as four homers and still come out with the win.
“Even though I allowed a couple home runs, my teammates gave me a lot of support,” Chen said.
Chen has now given up seven home runs over his past two starts, and 15 on the season. Only Washington’s Max Scherzer has given up more (17) in the N.L.
Dick Sanford, the Marlins’ public address announcer at both Dolphin Stadium and Marlins Park from 2000-14, died Tuesday.
▪ Wednesday: Marlins LHP Justin Nicolino (2-3, 4.76) at San Diego Padres (to be announced), 3:40 p.m., Petco Park.
▪ Thursday: Off day