Humbled Ichiro breaks Edgar's hits mark

Humbled Ichiro breaks Edgar's hits mark

OAKLAND -- Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki broke Edgar Martinez's franchise record for career hits on Saturday, fittingly with a pair of infield singles that helped lift Seattle to a 5-2 victory over the A's, then he paid tribute to the man he replaced in the record book.

Ichiro, just beginning his 11th season in the Major Leagues, now has 2,248 hits, one more than Martinez retired with in 2004.

"Today I broke his record. When you look at his numbers, that's a fact," Ichiro said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. "But he is a hero back in Seattle. He's my hero as well. When you look at his existence, he's a lot bigger than I am, being a great human being as well. So that's how I look at it.

"I played with Edgar for years. That's something that is important to me. That's precious. That's a treasure to me. That's what I honor as well."

Ichiro's second hit of the game came in the ninth inning, scoring Jack Wilson with the go-ahead run from third when A's first baseman Daric Barton threw wide to the plate to give Seattle a 3-2 lead.

"I wasn't thinking about my base hit," Ichiro said. "I wanted that run. That's what was more on my mind than my hit. I would probably be worried if that was my last at-bat of my baseball career, but this is a different story."

Indeed, Ichiro at 37 is showing no signs of slowing down. The man who has averaged 224 hits per season for 10 straight years has cranked out four more in Seattle's first two games, hitting .444 with two runs, two RBIs and three stolen bases.

"This is not the end. This is still the beginning. We still go from here on as well," he said. "This is not my [ultimate] goal or anything."

Ichiro had just joined the Mariners on April 3, 2001, when Martinez passed Ken Griffey Jr. to move into the franchise hits lead. At the time, Ichiro had two hits after two games in the Major Leagues. He says he recalls that day.

"I remember Edgar running as hard down the first-base line as I am right now," he said.

Ichiro is already first in Mariners history in stolen bases (386), triples (71) and batting average (.331). He needs 425 at-bats to pass Martinez in that category.

After a recent run of losing with the Mariners, he was thrilled to have this effort come in a winning cause.

"A big contribution is always great for yourself," he said. "That run was big today. It was a game changer. When it was over, everyone came to say congratulations. That's another thing that hit me in my heart, so that I felt truly happy."

Manager Eric Wedge said it was the perfect way for Ichiro to set the new mark.

"First of all, he comes through and helps us win the ballgame," Wedge said. "But ultimately being the all-time hits leader for the Seattle Mariners is a great accomplishment by a great player. You can't say it any more simply than that."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.