Yankee players talk during their Game 4 loss against the Baltimore Orioles.
The teams tied their regular season series 9-9. Tonight’s starting pitchers, CC Sabathia and Jason Hammel, had comparable regular season ERAs: 3.38 and 3.43, respectively.
Let’s predict that the Yankees win, the team with the 27 World Series Championships and the lineup of the biggest MLB superstars money can buy.
Which star does it for them?
It won’t be the 2-for-15 Nick Swisher.
It couldn’t possibly be Robinson Cano, who’s 0-for-10 in New York’s last two games.
We won’t count on the 1-for-16 Curtis Granderson.
Chances are it won’t be A-Rod, who hasn’t gotten a hit since Game 1 and was taken out of the starting lineup for tonight’s game.
So who will it be?
Well, it could be Derek Jeter, who’s hitting .421 in the series.
It could be Mark Teixeira, who went 2-4 against Hammel in Game 1.
Or maybe Raul Ibanez again. The 40-year-old DH had a couple of big hits in Game 3 to get the Yankees a win in extra innings.
It won’t be them. This time, it’s going to be Ichiro Suzuki. It won’t be loud and flashy; he won’t hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth to do it.
Even with the MLB’s most talented lineup batting around him, Ichiro will be a big factor in determining how far the Yankees go in the playoffs this year.
This is the first time Ichiro’s played in a postseason game in over a decade.
Back then, in Seattle’s first series against Cleveland, Ichiro was the superstar. He batted .605 over the five games and helped his team into the ALCS.
He’s not be batting above .600 this postseason. He’s not even batting .300. He’s not the Yankees’ best player.
What he is, still, is one of the most consistent players in the MLB, with a career .322 BA and a .365 OBP.
Before his final season and a half in Seattle, Ichiro hit about .300 for 10 consecutive seasons. After his BA fell below .300 for a season for the first time in his career, it looked like a change of scenery was all he needed. Ichiro got his average right back above .300 in 67 regular season games with the Yankees.
He’s also a 9-time Gold Glove winner and hasn’t made an error since last season with the Mariners.
As for tonight’s game, Ichiro is 7-for-12 (.583) in his career against Jason Hammel, including 2-5 with a double in Game 1. And he’s got a .651 OBP against him.
It’s that consistency that makes him so valuable.
We may not consider him to be the superstar caliber that many of his teammates are, but Ichiro is the guy who’ll win it tonight for the Yankees. He’ll push his team into the ALCS for the second time in his MLB career, but this time you may not even know it was him.