10/09/12 2:06 AM ET
Ichiro welcomes hostilities of postseason
By Bryan Hoch and Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
Ichiro will go down as one of the greatest international players of all time, but his playoff resume is still somewhat bare after having spent so much time with the Seattle Mariners.
When Ichiro took the field for Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Orioles on Sunday night, it marked the first time since 2001 he was able to take part in a postseason game.
"The atmosphere of the stadium was obviously different, and I didn't know how I was going to react," Ichiro said prior to Game 2 on Monday. "But I didn't think that I wouldn't be able to control my excitement, and that wasn't the case -- maybe because I'm with the Yankees and just the atmosphere that we have at the Stadium."
Ichiro set a number of records during his first -- and only -- postseason experience with the Mariners 11 years ago. He managed to hit .600 (12-for-20) in the ALDS against the Indians, which marked the highest average for any series that lasted five games.
It was also the best career average for any player with at least 20 postseason at-bats. Overall, Ichiro reached base in all 10 postseason games he played with Seattle, and his personal streak was extended to 12 after recording an RBI double in the first inning of Game 1 and a single in the third inning of Game 2.
More than anything, Ichiro seemed to enjoy the hostile environment at a sold- out Camden Yards. It's something that often can be found only during a postseason series with plenty on the line.
"What I felt yesterday was, you come on the road and you get booed by the fans, but that felt really good," Ichiro said. "I think a lot of players got booed last night, but it just felt really good to get booed on the road."
Ichiro's career appeared to be in decline until he was acquired by the Yankees in a late-July trade for a pair of right-handed pitching prospects. The 12-year veteran appeared rejuvenated by the move and almost immediately turned around what had been a disappointing season.
After the trade, the 38-year-old proceeded to hit .322 (73-for-227) with 28 runs scored and 19 extra-base hits in 67 games. He also provided much-needed versatility while filling in for the injured Brett Gardner, splitting his time in left field (26 games), right (24) and center (5).
"It seemed to work out really well for both him and us," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of the deal. "I think he's comfortable where he's at. I think he is around the guys a lot more that are his age group and his peer group, in a sense.
"We've given him some days off, so I think he's remained fresh. He has not had
to have been the focal point of the lineup and been the guy that's expected to
produce a lot. He just needs to be part of what's a really deep lineup, and I
think he's really enjoyed it."
Martin's heads-up play earns praise
BALTIMORE -- It may have gotten lost in the wild finish to Game 1 of the American League Division Series, but Russell Martin and Mark Teixeira teamed on a beautiful -- and important -- play in the home half of the fifth inning.
Martin charged Lew Ford's slow roller to the right side of the infield and made a lunging toss to first base, where Teixeira scooped a short hop to save CC Sabathia an extra baserunner in his effective start.
"To me, that's what I'm most proud of," Teixeira said. "It won't be talked about much, but if that ball gets by me, it's second and third, nobody out. They might have a huge inning.
"I got lucky, it was a really tough play, a really tough hop. I just stuck with it and it ended up sticking in my glove. But I could not let that ball get by me, because it's a big inning if I do."
Instead of having two on and none out, the Orioles advanced Chris Davis to second base with one out. Robert Andino singled to put runners at the corners, but Sabathia retired Nate McLouth and J.J. Hardy to pin them there.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi commented that Martin has proven his athleticism and said that most big league catchers wouldn't have been able to complete the first end of the play.
"Off the bat, it just kept getting away from me further and further," Martin said. "I just tried to get there in a hurry, and the ball was actually pretty wet, so I picked it up and threw it as quickly as possible.
"It was kind of in no-man's land. CC, when he throws, he kind of falls off to his right side and I knew off the bat that I was going to be the one to have to make that play. Teixeira made a sweet pick like he always does, it seems, at first base over there. It definitely was a big play. It changed that inning."
A-Rod staying put in No. 3 hole, says Girardi
BALTIMORE -- Alex Rodriguez's postseason is off to a rough start, but manager Joe Girardi said that he has no intention of removing him from the No. 3 hole in the Yankees' lineup.
Rodriguez has one hit in nine at-bats through the first two games of the American League Division Series against the Orioles, and Girardi said after New York's 3-2, Game 2 loss on Monday that he isn't considering giving A-Rod a different look.
"Right now, I don't plan on having any changes to our lineup," Girardi said. "You look at, he squared up two balls tonight. You look at the ball he hit in the first inning, he squared it up, and then he had the other hard single. Right now, I don't have any plans to make any changes."
Rodriguez lined into a double play in the first inning against Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen on a terrific play by second baseman Robert Andino, and contributed a well-struck single to left field in the third inning.
"I can't believe he made that play," Rodriguez said of Andino's stab and flip to second base. "It was really an incredible play. I thought that ball was by him; I saw it into center field. It's first and third, 1-0 and here we go."
But Rodriguez flied out to center field in the fifth inning before striking out in his final two plate appearances, including whiffing for the last out of the game against Orioles closer Jim Johnson.
"I feel OK," Rodriguez said. "Some of these at-bats, you just have to finish them."
Nunez slotted in Yanks' lineup to face lefty
BALTIMORE -- The Yankees are carrying Eduardo Nunez on the American League Division Series roster for his ability to hit left-handed pitching, and Nunez got his first cracks in Monday's 3-2, Game 2 loss against the Orioles' Wei-Yin Chen.
Nunez popped out in his first two plate appearances, but flared a double to right field and scored on a Derek Jeter single in the seventh before fouling out in the eighth inning.
"He's done a good job in these situations," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said before the game. "He's swung the bat pretty well against lefties for us lately, so that's why we have him here."
Nunez batted .360 (18-for-50) with three doubles, a triple and six RBIs against left-handed pitching during the regular season.
His role is one that was filled largely this year by Andruw Jones, who batted just .142 with three homers and 12 RBIs in the second half and said that he didn't think he deserved to be on the ALDS roster.
Girardi said that he is encouraged that his lineup as a whole is less susceptible to left-handed pitching now that Mark Teixeira has returned from his calf injury.
"I think Tex makes a big difference in that," Girardi said. "Ichiro [Suzuki] had a great month against lefties in September. Swish [Nick Swisher] is starting to hit lefties again, and Alex [Rodriguez] has hit them all year for the most part; Jeet [Derek Jeter] hits them. So I think we're a different lineup."
Yanks reportedly bothered by Troopers mid-game
BALTIMORE -- The Yankees were reportedly bothered by two Maryland State Troopers who asked for autographs in the dugout during Sunday's 7-2 win over the Orioles in Game 1 of the American League Division Series.
The New York Post reported that Nick Swisher and Derek Jeter were approached by the troopers during the top of the ninth inning, and the newspaper quoted a source who said Swisher "was livid" at the in-game request.
Manager Joe Girardi did not witness the incident, but pointed out the obvious in saying, "That shouldn't happen."
"It shows you maybe some of the caliber of our players and what they've done over the years," Girardi added, with a laugh.
• Girardi said that he saw no need to address Ichiro's first-inning caught stealing at third base, in which he was gunned down running on his own for the first out of the inning.
"He knew -- he knows," Girardi said. "I could see it when he came in. He understands the game. This guy has played the game a long time. I could see it in his face; I wasn't going to put anything on top of that."
• The Yankees' five ninth-inning runs in Game 1 marked the fourth time in franchise history that they have posted at least that many runs in a postseason ninth inning, all on the road. The other occurrences were the 1936 World Series Game 2 at Giants (six runs), 1936 World Series Game 6 at Giants (seven runs) and 1999 AL Championship Series Game 4 at Boston (six runs).
• On this date in 1956, Don Larsen threw the only perfect game in World Series history, a 2-0 win over the Dodgers at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees took the series in seven games for their 17th title.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.