Ichiro makes like 'The Matrix,' deftly avoids tag
Yankees left fielder dekes Orioles' Wieters to score first-inning run
BALTIMORE -- Ichiro Suzuki has always treated baseball as a thinking man's game, so it should come as no surprise that his mind went into overdrive during Game 2 of the American League Division Series on Monday night against the Orioles.
Ichiro appeared as though he would be dead-on-arrival while trying to score all the way from first base during the first inning of an eventual 3-2 loss, but instead a spry baserunning move provided an early must-see highlight from this year's postseason.
The 12-year veteran did his best impression of "The Matrix" by deftly avoiding a tag by O's catcher Matt Wieters and scoring the game's first run in dramatic fashion.
"It's not something you can practice," Ichiro said through an interpreter. "I think it's just instincts, how you feel at that time. But you can say that it's not always the speed that gets you in at times.
"In baseball, there are times, it's not that you're not hustling, but slowing down or speeding up can sometimes make a difference. It's not that you're not hustling, speed isn't just about going fast."
The play originally started with Ichiro on first base and Robinson Cano at the plate with two outs. Cano sent a hard liner into the right-field corner, and Yankees third-base coach Rob Thomson opted for an aggressive approach early on by waving Ichiro home.
The relay throw arrived well before the runner, but that didn't bother the fast-reacting Ichiro, who then went wide of the plate to avoid the tag by Wieters. That put Ichiro in no man's land as he still hadn't touched home plate, but he made one quick deke and then managed to sneak his hand past Wieters' outstretched glove.
"I just didn't want to run into an out at home, so I was thinking rounding the bag that I might have to do something to create something," Ichiro said.
"I knew that if I just ran into home, that it would be an out. So, if I did this, then maybe I might be safe, is what I was thinking. Obviously I was trying to use my head and think about how can I create something to make it so that I might be safe, and that's what I was thinking."
Baltimore manager Buck Showalter immediately sprinted onto the field after the call was made by home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez. But the call appeared to be the right one as TV replays showed Ichiro was never tagged.
Wieters still felt after the game that he had gotten a piece of the future Hall of Famer, but after a 3-2 Orioles victory he was more than happy to tip his cap at the impressive maneuvering.
"I thought I might have nicked a button, but he's quick and made a pretty good move," Wieters said. "I wish I could have gotten him. Maybe the leather strap [of the catcher's mitt] clipped the button or something."
The play drew some comparisons to Atlanta's Greg Maddux, who did some historic shuffling of his own against the Pirates on May 5, 1993. Maddux was attempting to score from second when he hopped over catcher Don Slaught, then managed to side-step a tag before also sneaking his hand back into home plate.
It was a play that Yankees manager Joe Girardi thought of immediately when Ichiro came through with his clutch performance.
"I recall Greg Maddux doing that one time," Girardi said. "That was a little while ago, but it's quite a slide by Ichiro and it turned out to be a big run."