MIAMI (AP) — Ichiro Suzuki received a standing ovation stepping to the plate as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning Thursday, and when he doubled, the cheering became louder.
There was even hooting and hollering in the Miami Marlins’ clubhouse for their teammate.
“I was icing,” said ace Jose Fernandez, who had left the game. “We were yelling and jumping with my hand in the ice.”
Suzuki’s hit was No. 2,998 and helped the Marlins score their final run, but they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, 5-4.
St. Louis’ Aledmys Diaz homered, doubled and drove in three runs against childhood pal Fernandez, who fell behind 5-0, left after five innings and dropped to 26-2 at Marlins Park.
Miami’s Dee Gordon, the 2015 NL batting and stolen bases champion, returned from an 80-game suspension for failing a drug test and went 0 for 4.
Suzuki drew closer to the 3,000-hit milestone even though he began the game on the bench for the sixth time in the past seven games during Miami’s homestand. Manager Don Mattingly had no apologies about playing his 42-year-old fourth outfielder sparingly.
“I don’t think he’s searching to make this about him,” Mattingly said. “I think he’s comfortable with the way we’re playing it.”
Even so, fans and teammates are eager for Suzuki to reach the milestone.
“Every time he comes up to hit I feel like a kid,” Fernandez said. “It’s an honor to be a part of the history he’s making. When he comes up to hit you’re watching a god, one of the best who has ever done it.”
Diaz and Matt Holliday homered in the third inning against Fernandez (12-5), who had never previously given up more than one homer in a home game. His only other loss at Marlins Park came on opening day this year against Detroit.
Michael Wacha (6-7) allowed three runs in six innings, and three relievers completed an eight-hitter. Seung Hwan Oh pitched around a one-out single in the ninth for his seventh save.
Diaz and Fernandez were neighbors growing up in Santa Clara, Cuba, and the Cardinals enjoyed their reunion. Fernandez walked Jeremy Hazelbaker to start the third inning, and Diaz followed with his 14th homer.
Two batters later, Holliday hit his 18th homer just inside the right-field foul pole, prompting a rueful grin from Fernandez. The outing was his shortest since May 4.
Martin Prado hit a two-run homer for the Marlins.
Marcell Ozell hit comebackers off Wacha (right leg) and Oh (left buttocks). Both stayed in the game.
The umpires said they erroneously reversed a balk call, taking a Cardinals run off the board in the second inning.
With runners at second and third and two out, Fernandez was about to intentionally walk No. 8 hitter Kolten Wong when third base umpire D.J. Reyburn called a balk. Fernandez protested, and after the four umpires conferred, they reversed the call and decided there was no balk.
Wacha struck out to end the inning and keep the game scoreless. After the game, crew chief John Hirshbeck reviewed video and decided Reyburn’s balk call had been correct.
“D.J. called it from third, and I thought I saw (Fernandez) step off with his right foot,” Hirshbeck said. “I overruled D.J. with what I thought I saw. He was right, I was wrong.”
Cardinals LHP Jaime Garcia will start Saturday on four days’ rest, manager Mike Matheny said. Garcia threw 77 pitches Tuesday, when he gave up two earned runs in five innings and lost to the Mets.
Cardinals RHP Mike Leake (7-8, 4.24), who is scheduled to start Friday, is 3-0 with an 0.44 ERA in three starts at Marlins Park. RHP Jose Urena (1-2, 5.34) will start for Miami.
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