Drayer: Ichiro, Haniger, Freitas provide highlights as Mariners win final exhibition over Yomiuri Giants

Mar 18, 2019, 9:21 AM | Updated: 9:25 am

Mariner catcher David Freitas hit the game-winning homer on his 30th birthday. (Getty)...

Mariner catcher David Freitas hit the game-winning homer on his 30th birthday. (Getty)


TOKYO – The Mariners won their last game before the start, stop and resume again of their 2019 regular season, beating the Yomiuri Giants 6-5 on Monday in front of a slightly smaller, but perhaps even louder, Ichi-maniacal crowd at the Tokyo Dome.

Ichiro’s future the focus during Mariners’ trip to Japan

Ichiro went 0 for 3 but did give the crowd a thrill with a strong throw that was right on the money to third base to hold a runner at second on a high fly ball to right.

Fans will get at least one more chance to see Ichiro play in Japan, as prior to the game Mariners manager Scott Servais confirmed that Ichiro will start Wednesday’s MLB season opener against the Oakland A’s in right field.

On the hill, Félix Hernández once again put up zeros in his first three innings but struggled in the fourth, allowing three straight singles and a walk before recording his first out in the frame. He allowed five runs on four hits and three walks and he did not strike out a batter, needing 78 pitches to get through four innings.

“He had a lot of deep counts tonight,” Servais said. “The fastball was up more than we have seen most of the spring. I don’t think we have seen the sharpness or the crispness to all of Félix’s pitches. On certain nights he has had a pitch to go to; tonight he was up with the fastball.”

Offensively the team fared better, with Mitch Haniger hitting a monster of a home run that bounced off a banner hung from the rafters in left-center field. Judging from the reaction of the crowd, not many baseballs reach that part of the stadium.

“I’ve seen him do it quite a few times in BP, this was the first time in a game,” catcher David Freitas said of Haniger’s homer. “It was jaw-dropping for me.”

Freitas celebrated his 30th birthday with a home run of his own that turned out to be the game winner. For his efforts, Freitas was honored on the field with an interview on a podium that was broadcast throughout the stadium, something that is done in Japan’s Nippon Pro Baseball. Of note, the vast majority of fans in Japan stay until the end of the ballgame, and those who were moving when the interview began on the field stopped and watched until it was finished.

“The ‘Baseball Hero,’ that’s what they call it in Japan,” said Freitas. “It was a little different doing an interview with an interpreter, but it was awesome. It was a cool experience.”

The past three days have been filled with numerous cool experiences for the players, but after an off day Tuesday, the switch gets flipped from what has been an atypical spring training into games that count.

“Fortunately it was pretty quick so you didn’t get into Groundhog Day mode where every day is the same and you’re just kind of going through the motions,” said Wade LeBlanc, who will be available out of the bullpen for the two games against the A’s. “We are right on the doorstep now.”


• The Mariners, who have traveled to Japan with 30 players, will need to submit a roster of 28 before the first game against the A’s. Of those 28, they will be only allowed to use 25. Ichiro will need to be placed on the 40-man roster – they have one spot open – and Kyle Seager, Sam Tuivailala, Anthony Swarzak and Gerson Bautista placed on the injured list.

• Before the game, Servais said that center fielder Mallex Smith has begun DHing in games back in Arizona. Dee Gordon will lead off in his absence.

Drayer: Yusei Kikuchi ready for unique Mariners debut in his home country

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Drayer: Ichiro, Haniger, Freitas provide highlights as Mariners win final exhibition over Yomiuri Giants