Mariners win opener in Ja­pan

San­tana hits slam; Ichiro feels the love

The Buffalo News - - SPORTS -

TOKYO – Domingo San­tana led an of­fen­sive bar­rage with an op­po­site field grand slam and the Seat­tle Mariners topped the Oak­land Ath­let­ics 9-7 in the first game of the 2019 reg­u­lar sea­son in the Tokyo Dome.

A sell­out crowd of 45,787 clam­or­ing to see what is likely Ichiro Suzuki’s fi­nal pro ap­pear­ance in Ja­pan was treated to an of­fen­sive show­case in the first of a two-game se­ries. The Mariners and A’s com­bined for 16 hits and five home runs, in­clud­ing a game-chang­ing grand slam from San­tana in his Mariners de­but.

“Any time some­one comes up with a big clutch hit, we score some runs, that’s a huge deal,” Mariners righthander Marco Gon­za­les said. “You can see that once this team starts go­ing, once we start fir­ing it’s kind of a domino ef­fect. See­ing him get things go­ing for us in a big way.”

San­tana in­side-outed an 0-1 pitch, sneak­ing it in­side the right-field foul pole to clear the bases and put Seat­tle on top 5-2 in the top of the third. The blast capped a five-run in­ning, and the Mariners would not re­lin­quish the lead.

Khris Davis brought Oak­land back within 5-4 on the first pitch he saw in the bot­tom of the third, blast­ing a line-drive, two-run home to left-cen­ter field. It was Oak­land’s sec­ond home run of the night af­ter Stephen Pis­cotty opened the power show in the first in­ning.

The Mariners tacked on runs in the fourth and fifth in­nings. Tim Beck­ham crushed a two-run home run to left field the very next at-bat to even­tu­ally put Seat­tle ahead 9-4.

The bulb flashes of cam­eras started im­me­di­ately when Ichiro walked to the on-deck cir­cle in the top of the third. The crowd roared dur­ing his two plate ap­pear­ances, and when he made his exit in the fourth in­ning, com­ing out with the po­si­tion play­ers only to turn around and re­turn to the dugout. He was re­placed by Daniel Vo­gel­bach.

Prospect gets big money

With­out play­ing in a ma­jor league game, out­fielder Eloy Jimenez agreed to a six-year deal worth a guar­an­teed $43 mil­lion with the Chicago White Sox on Wed­nes­day, mul­ti­ple out­lets re­ported.

The deal, which also in­cludes two op­tion years, is a record in guar­an­teed money for a player al­ready in a team’s sys­tem who had not logged a day of big league time. Jimenez has played in the White Sox’s or­ga­ni­za­tion since 2017 when he was ac­quired in the deal that sent left-han­der Jose Quin­tana to the Chicago Cubs.

In­clud­ing the op­tions, Jimenez’s con­tract would be worth $77 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to ESPN.

Jimenez, the White Sox’s top prospect, had al­ready been as­signed to Triple-A Char­lotte to start the up­com­ing sea­son, but the deal means that he is now ex­pected to be in the team’s Open­ing Day lineup.

Be­cause the con­tract will take him into his ini­tial free agency years, the White Sox can put Jimenez on the ma­jor league ros­ter now with­out wor­ry­ing about start­ing his free-agency clock. If he played three weeks in the mi­nor leagues to start this sea­son, it would have de­layed his move into free agency by one year. The new con­tract elim­i­nates that sce­nario.

Jimenez, 22, bat­ted .337 with 22 home runs and 75 RBIs in 108 games last sea­son be­tween Dou­ble-A Birm­ing­ham and Triple-A Char­lotte.

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