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September 18, 2009 at 10:28 PM

Mariners 3, Yankees 2: Ichiro’s walkoff homer in ninth gives Felix Hernandez his 16th victory

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Sorry for the delay, but there was obviously plenty of last-minute re-writing for the newspaper and a scrapping of the planned post-game blog post after Ichiro tagged Mariano Rivera for a two-run, walkoff homer in the ninth. Last time the Mariners did that to Rivera? Back in 1997. Ichiro was years away from the majors and Felix Hernandez was 11 years old.
Now, Hernandez is a 16-5 Cy Young Award candidate. He lowered his ERA to 2.45 with a complete-game, allowing just one earned run. But it appeared a Rob Johnson passed ball in the sixth, which led to an unearned marker, was going to finish Hernandez off.
Instead, with two out, none on and Rivera looking to convert his 28th straight save against the Mariners in the ninth, Mike Sweeney doubled on a cutter over the middle of the plate. Ichiro then belted the first pitch he saw over the right field wall and the place went nuts.
Ichiro said through an interpreter that he had no real plan to look for a specific pitch from Rivera in the final at-bat.
“With a pitcher like Mariano Rivera, there’s no way you can plan small things like that,” he said. “Mike Sweeney created an opportunity for us and I just went with the flow he created. And it was an at-bat where I went with my emotions.”
His teammates waited to mob him at the plate, and of course, pound him mercilessly. It was in contrast to last night, when they chased him around the outfield after his walkoff single.
“Yesterday, I was able to escape from them,” he said. “But today, there was no way to escape. I kind of got beat up today.”
Rivera had converted 36 consecutive saves prior to the home run.
“Ichiro can do a lot of things,” Rivera said. “But definitely if you make mistakes, he’s going to hurt you.”
The “mistake” was a cutter Rivera had hoped to bury deep inside. He didn’t get it in nearly enough.
“I didn’t get it where it was supposed to go.”

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