Ichiro gets rare start, supplies missing power

Ichiro gets rare start, supplies missing power

PITTSBURGH -- Without Giancarlo Stanton in the starting lineup, the Marlins turned to others on Sunday to provide the missing power. Ichiro Suzuki became an unlikely choice.

Getting a spot start in right field, Ichiro connected on a home run off Daniel Hudson to lead off the eighth inning, and it was the lone run Miami had in a 3-1 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park.

"I had to replace Stanton today, so maybe, I should hit one, at least one," Ichiro said jokingly through his interpreter Allen Turner.

The 43-year-old, who has 3,046 big league hits, hasn't had much playing time all season. Miami's outfield trio of Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich is among the best in baseball.

But Stanton was plunked on the right wrist by a pitch on Saturday, and Ichiro was given the start in right field.

After going 1-for-3, Ichiro now has just 81 at-bats in 52 games. A member of MLB's exclusive 3,000-hits club, the 43-year-old is batting just .198. He does have two home runs, which says something since he hadn't had more than one in a season since 2013.

"I've been so limited on opportunities," Ichiro said. "It's hard to get a feel for the game. I'm just trying the best I can to get in there. But, obviously, that's just how it's been."

Ichiro's leaping catch

Process and routine oriented, Ichiro wasn't sure he was playing on Sunday until he saw his name in the lineup.

Stanton's wrist, naturally, was an issue. But an X-ray came back negative, and it appears the slugger will be fine. The Marlins did end up using Stanton in a pinch-hit role in the eighth inning, and he struck out.

"I knew that he was OK, and thank goodness that everything was OK, so I didn't know I was in the lineup today," Ichiro said. "I came to the ballpark and saw my name in the lineup. That's kind of how it started. I didn't really have time to prepare."

The Marlins trailed by three when Ichiro faced Hudson in the eighth inning. His homer was projected by Statcast™ at 391 feet with an exit velocity of 99 mph and a launch angle of 33 degrees.

"For me, what's important now, is not the numbers," Ichiro said. "It's mentally, hanging in there through this stretch, and also trying to get a feel for the game, getting that back, that feeling back. That's what I'm focusing on doing, and hopefully I'll continue to get there."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.