Picture it: Yankee Stadium, The Bronx, NY. The year 2012. The Yankees of New York are facing the Red Sox of Boston for the eight billionth time on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball broadcast. The pitching matchup that warm, August evening was Josh Beckett for the visitors and Hiroki Kuroda for the home team. I used to own the Sunday ticket package at Yankee Stadium. I had it from 1999 until 2013, which means I attended a lot of Red Sox/Yankees Sunday night match-ups. Too many of them if we're going to be honest, but this particular night's game was memorable for a few reasons.
First, it turned out to be Josh Beckett’s last start against the Yankees as a member of the Red Sox. He, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford were traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers as a part of nine-player deal the following weekend.
Second, when you see a matchup between Beckett and Kuroda, the last thing you expect to see is Ichiro hitting two home runs, but it happened.
That particular Sunday, I wasn’t sitting in my usual seats in section 420A. My brother was in those seats with his then girlfriend, and I was sitting with my friend Samantha in her seats in 423. I mention this because, thanks to the seat switcheroo, I had a perfect view of both of Ichiro’s home runs.
Heading into that night's matchup, Beckett was 5-0 against the Yankees in his previous seven starts. His last loss was in August 2010. But things were a little different in 2012. The Red Sox, under manager Bobby Valentine, were pretty putrid and trailing the American League East-leading Yankees by 12 1/2 games.
Kuroda induced three ground ball outs to start the game, while Beckett gave up a leadoff double to Derek Jeter on his second pitch of the game. After getting Nick Swisher to ground out and Robinson Cano to strike out, Beckett gave up another double, this time to Curtis Granderson. Jeter scored and the Yankees went up 1-0.
Kuroda and Beckett exchanged 1-2-3 innings in the second, and Kuroda surrendered a single to Nick Punto with no damage in the top of the third. In the bottom of the third, the Yankees scored a run on a wild pitch to go up 2-0. It was Jeter who scored again after hitting another double off Beckett.
In the top of the fourth, Kuroda, once again, had a 1-2-3 inning—three ground ball outs—and Beckett, who wasn't actually pitching that badly, was in for a bit of a surprise. After getting Raul Ibanez and Russell Martin to ground out, Beckett was hoping to get Ichiro to do the same. Not so fast said Ichiro. On the fifth pitch of the at bat, Ichiro took Beckett's offering into the second deck of right field to put the Yankees up 3-0.
I remember standing up and saying, "Go go go!" as if doing that would actually will the ball out of the ballpark. I also remember giggling because I wasn't a huge Josh Beckett fan, and seeing Ichiro hit a home run off him was hilarious. You can only imagine what happened a couple of innings later.
Beckett worked around two singles and a walk in the fifth without surrendering a run. Jeter had his third hit of the night but couldn't score from third with one out thanks to a foul pop fly by Eric Chavez and a fly ball third out from Ibanez.
After Kuroda set down the Red Sox in order in the top of the sixth, Martin, Ichiro, and Casey McGehee were due up in the bottom of the frame. Remember Casey McGehee on the Yankees? Yeah, me neither.
Martin hit a pop out to short, and Ichiro stepped in, once again, against Beckett. And just like he did in the fourth inning, Ichiro made contact with Beckett's second offering of the at bat. This time, it was of the line drive variety and made its way into the short porch in right field to put the Yankees up 4-0. I stood up with my arms in the air like I was signaling a touchdown because I couldn't believe I just saw Ichiro hit two home runs in the same game, and against Josh Beckett too.
Ichiro would come up to bat in the eighth with a chance for a third home run against Junichi Tazawa, but he got only a measly infield single. He did however attempt to swing for the fences before the single. Could you imagine seeing Ichiro hit three home runs in one game? I probably would have fainted.
The Yankees would go on to win the game 4-1. Beckett didn't pitch a particularly awful game and was really victimized by only two hitters—Jeter and Ichiro—but he got the loss in his last start against the Yankees as a member of the Boston Red Sox.
Here are some fun facts about Ichiro's ability to hit multiple home runs:
- Ichiro has had seven multi-homer games in his career.
- The first game was 7/13/02
- The last game was 8/19/12
- In 2012 he had two two-home run games (one with Seattle and one with NY)
- Three of those multi-home run game shots were of the lead-off variety.
- The next time a Yankee player hit two home runs in a game was June 5, 2015. The player? Stephen Drew.
. . .
Stacey Gotsulias is a contributing writer of Beyond the Box Score. She also contributes to The Hardball Times and writes about the New York Yankees for It's About The Money and BP Bronx. You can follow her on Twitter at @StaceGots.