Ichiro went 7-for-8 Wednesday as the Yankees won a pair of critical games from the Toronto Blue Jays to take a half-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. He provided heroics at bat and in the field, and electricity on the bases with four steals.
In the first game, Ichiro made a sliding catch of a line drive by Rajai Davis with the bases loaded and the Yankees clinging to a 3-2 lead in the top of the eighth inning. In the bottom of the inning, Ichiro doubled and scored an insurance run on a hit by Nick Swisher.
In the second game, a nail-biting 2-1 Yankees victory, Ichiro went 4-for-4 against left-handed pitchers and broke a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the eighth inning by singling in the eventual winning run.
"It was a great day," said Ichiro through his interpreter. "I just wanted to contribute, wanted to be able to help in this kind of race. Today was a great day that I was able to help."
Ichiro, 38, is not the superstar player he once was. The Yankees were hoping, however, that he would be energized by coming to New York and being in a pennant race. Apparently, he has been.
After hitting .261 in 95 games for the Mariners this season, Ichiro has hit .317 in 40 games for the Yankees, stolen 10 bases, played terrific defense and accepted both a part-time role and a spot generally at the bottom of the Yankees batting order without complaint.
In other words, he has been everything the Yankees wanted. And, considering the race they are in, needed.