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Ichiro leads Yankees to sweep of doubleheader

Ichiro’s talents may have diminished somewhat over recent seasons, butthere still are instances when he can turn back the clock.

Ichiro’s talents may have diminished somewhat over recent seasons, but
there still are instances when he can turn back the clock.

The nightcap of Wednesday’s day-night doubleheader with the Blue Jays
was one of those occasions as Ichiro capped a four-hit performance with a
tiebreaking single with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning in a
2-1 win.

“I go up to the plate, thinking that I’m going to get a hit every time
at the plate,” Ichiro said through an interpreter. “The results were
different today and I’m not quite sure what the difference was, but I
did go up there with the mindset that I was going to get a hit.”

Ichiro helped the Yankees win four straight for the first time in over a
month and improve to 9-4 in their last 13 games. More importantly, his
first four-hit game as a Yankee and his 7-for-8 showing in the
doubleheader kept the Yankees atop the AL East, one game ahead of the
Orioles.

“I came in the middle of the season and I always wanted to contribute,”
Ichiro said. “I always wanted to be able to help in the pennant race and
today was a great day. Hopefully I can continue to do what I can to
help the team.”

The biggest of Ichiro’s seven hits came in the eighth inning of the
second game and was set up by some small ball involving power hitter
Curtis Granderson. Granderson opened the inning by drawing a walk, was
sacrificed to second by Jayson Nix, stole his first base since July 25
and scored the go-ahead run when Ichiro lined a 1-1 fastball into left
field.

“I don’t know if you ever imagine a guy going 7-for-8 in a day,” Yankees
manager Joe Girardi said. “We knew he could get huge hits for us. We
knew he could do a lot of different things for us. He’s just a heads-up
player and you saw a lot of it today.”

Ichiro became the seventh Yankee to record at least three hits in both
games of a doubleheader. He also tied a career high with four steals,
becoming the first Yankee to have four hits and four steals in the same
game since Rickey Henderson in 1988 at Toronto.

“That’s tough to do man, a doubleheader, I don’t think I’ve ever done
that in a doubleheader,” Yankee captain Derek Jeter said. “I’ve been on
the other side, 0-for-8, but Ich he did what he always does. He’s a
tough at-bat. He puts the ball in play. He gets on the bases and makes
things happen. But that was a much needed day from him and for us.”

“I feel like he’s getting hot again,” right-fielder Nick Swisher said.
“You saw today when he gets rolling it’s really hard to stop him. It
feels like he’s hitting the ball everywhere -- down the left field line,
the right field line, left center, right center. He’s just doing a
great job. I’m glad we picked him up.”

Ichiro also collected at least six hits in a doubleheader for the third
time and for the first time since 2004 at Baltimore. He also posted his
49th career four-hit game.

“It’s an easy game for him, I guess,” catcher Chris Stewart said. “He’s having a lot of fun and it’s good to see.”

Ichiro almost was not going to play since Toronto was starting a
left-hander, but his 9-for-25 showing off Ricky Romero was too good to
ignore. His performance might have earned him some increased playing
time against southpaws according to Girardi.

Before getting Ichiro’s go-ahead hit, the Yankees had plenty of chances
to strike against Romero. Those chances went to waste due to a 2-for-11
showing with runners in scoring position and nine left on in the six
innings against Romero.

Romero was matched by David Phelps, who continued thriving in the Ramiro
Mendoza role of a versatile pitcher. He pitched effectively into the
seventh, allowing one run and three hits while throwing a career-high
110 pitches on a night when the Yankees sorely needed some distance.

“Doubleheaders are tough,” Jeter said. “It’s tough to beat a team twice
in one day. We had two close games but our pitching deserves credit --
Andy and our bullpen in the first one and the same thing here in the
night game. If you pitch like this you’re going to have a chance to win
and it was a much-needed day for us.”



Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter
@LarryFleisher.

 
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