Ichiro in center field takes center stage
Ichiro Suzuki keeps moving around the Yankees’ outfield. With Nick Swisher out of the lineup for a week with a strained left hip flexor, Suzuki was able to play his familiar right field once he joined the Yankees three weeks ago. The Yanks’ intent was for him to play left field, where he was moved once Swisher got healthy. And Friday night, Ichiro found himself in center field so that Yankees manager Joe Girardi could give Curtis Granderson a night off on the artificial turf in Toronto.
Granderson eventually entered the game as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning with Suzuki moving over to right field. His seven innings in center field Friday night marked Ichiro’s first game at that position since 2008. He played an entire season in center field for the Mariners in 2007 but longed to return to his preferred right field, which he did in ’08. He has played left field for the first time since Game 5 of the 2001 American League Championship Series against the Yankees, so playing center field was no big deal.
It was a good night all around for Suzuki, who contributed mightily to the Yankees’ 10-4 victory at Rogers Centre, their third straight after dropping the first two games of the trip. Suzuki handled all three chances he had in the field flawlessly and drove in five runs with a double, a single and by running hard to avert a double play.
The Blue Jays did the Yankees several favors in the game with questionable defense. Toronto committed two errors officially and had a few other misplays, the strangest of which was a single by Russell Martin that actually hit second baseman Kelly Johnson on the cap. He ran into center field to track Martin’s fly ball and put up his glove, but the ball banged off his head instead. Suzuki followed with a two-run single. That broke the game open in the three-run eighth off reliever Steve Delabar that began with Mark Teixeira’s 22nd home run.
The Yankees batted around in the ninth. Nick Swisher doubled in one run, and Raul Ibanez came off the bench to drive in a run with a single. Later in the inning with the bases loaded, Suzuki was credited with a two-run double when left fielder Rajai Davis apparently lost the liner in the lights.
The Yankees used one of Toronto’s errors to score two runs on just one hit in the second inning off lefthander Ricky Romero. Robinson Cano, who led off with a single, was able to score from second base on a wild throw by catcher Jeff Mathis off a sacrifice attempt by Jayson Nix. The error allowed Andruw Jones to get to third base from where he scored on Suzuki’s infield out.
The Jays’ failure to turn a double play on Teixeira in the third inning led to another Yankees run. Toronto was in an over-shift against Tex, and Johnson did not cover second to try to turn a DP. They got only one out, and Cano singled in a run shortly after.
All of this was welcomed by Freddy Garcia, who held the Blue Jays to two runs and five hits with no walks and four strikeouts in six innings to win his second straight start and run his season record to 6-5. It was a tight game when Freddy was in it before the Yankees pulled away with seven runs in the last two innings.