07/16/2003 3:12 AM ET
A memorable night for Ichiro, fans
Leading vote-getter backs up his All-Star support
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- All in all, it was an ordinary night for Ichiro Suzuki. Which is to say that he used the 74th All-Star Game as a showcase for his considerable talents.
Ichiro Suzuki takes off for second base during Tuesday's All-Star Game. He walked twice and scored a run in three plate appearances. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
No wonder the right fielder received more votes (2,130,708) than any other player in fan balloting.
Suzuki went hitless in one at-bat, but he still generated offense, drawing a pair of walks and scoring the American League's first run in its 7-6 victory Tuesday night over the National League. He played more extensively than any of the Seattle Mariners' five representatives, starting in right field and leaving for a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning.
He also played defense brilliantly, making an acrobatic fourth-inning catch on a line drive hit by St. Louis' Albert Pujols that will be remembered as the game's defensive highlight.
Facing Mariners left-hander Jamie Moyer with one out in the fourth inning, Pujols belted the first pitch he saw toward the right-center field alley. It looked like a certain extra-base hit, but Suzuki quickly tracked the ball, took a bounding leap one stride in front of the warning track and hauled in the drive, with the 375-foot marker serving as a backdrop.
Speaking through an interpreter, Suzuki implied that he initially struggled to see the ball in the twilight.
"At the time, the color of the sky was kind of messed up," Suzuki said.
He also indicated that he wanted to give the sellout crowd of 47,609 at U.S. Cellular Field something to remember.
"I ran a little bit slower than normal so I could make the catch a little more dramatic," he said.
Moyer has grown accustomed to Suzuki's defensive gems. "You see them all the time in Seattle. It's great," he said.
But Moyer wasn't certain he'd see another one this time.
"When [Pujols] hit the ball, I thought, I don't know if [Suzuki] has a chance," Moyer said. "I really couldn't tell how the ball was carrying tonight. In batting practice it seemed like some balls were taking off and some balls were dying. I've been here when balls in the gap sometimes take off toward center field. But he stayed with it. He has great speed and he knows how to play the outfield. He made a great catch."
Suzuki was well aware that the AL's sixth consecutive All-Star victory ultimately could help the Mariners by giving them home-field advantage if they reach the World Series.
"In the middle of the game, the momentum was shifted to the National League and I said, 'It's not good,'" Suzuki said. "But momentum came back to us and I started to get a feeling that we'd like to play the World Series in Seattle."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.