Ichiro Suzuki was the main attraction in the Seattle Mariners' 5-1 loss to the Hanshin Tigers in an exhibition game at the Tokyo Dome on Sunday.
Suzuki, who went 1 for 4, drew huge cheers from the crowd of 42,139 when he hit a single down the left field line in the top of the first inning.
“I felt a lot of tension so that was quite a moment,” Suzuki said of his hit in the first inning. “It didn't feel like an exhibition game and there was a different atmosphere.”
Suzuki grounded out in his next three at-bats, but the near-capacity crowd on hand didn't seem to mind.
“Ichiro has been on a different level for all these years and when you saw those flashbulbs going off when he came up to bat in the first inning that says it all,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said.
The Mariners are in Japan to open the season against the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday and Thursday.
Hanshin scored three runs in the bottom of the second. Takahiro Arai scored from third on an infield single by former Mariner Kenji Jojima and Tomoaki Kanemoto hit a two-run homer to right off Seattle starter Hector Noesi, who took the loss after giving up three runs and six hits in five innings.
The Tigers added two runs in the seventh on Kohei Shibata's double to center and a Takashi Toritani single to left.
Seattle's run came in the ninth inning on a home run by Casper Wells.
The Mariners had a chance to score in the top of the eighth when Munenori Kawasaki led off with a double and advanced to third on a Suzuki grounder to second, but Alex Liddi popped out and Jesus Montero struck out to end the inning.
Wedge said he continues to be impressed by Kawasaki.
“Mune has been fantastic for us all spring,” Wedge said. “He had to compete to be on the ballclub and he has done what he needed to do. He brings a lot more to the team than what he does on the field.”