Mariners win opener in Japan
Santana hits slam; Ichiro feels the love
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.