SEATTLE — Dee Gordon had "Thanks 51" on his cap, and in his first at-bat hours after the Mariners announced Ichiro Suzuki's move from the roster to the front office, he held his bat out in front of him and paused, just like the Seattle franchise icon.
Then, as Suzuki had done for so many years at Safeco Field, the Mariners' new leadoff man legged out an infield single, stole a base, and scored the first Seattle run in a 4-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Thursday night.
It was a fitting tribute to the longtime Japanese star. Gordon went 3 for 4, stole two bases, scored twice and set the table for the three-run third inning punctuated by Nelson Cruz's two-run homer off emerging A's ace Sean Manaea, who threw this season's only no-hitter April 21 against Boston.
"Whenever he gets on base he causes havoc," Manaea said of Gordon. "The more you can get him off the bases the better. It's always in the back of your head when he's on base. He's super-fast. I tried everything I could today."
Gordon opened the first with the infield hit and stolen base, Jean Segura sacrificed Gordon to third, and Robinson Cano singled him in to give the Mariners a 1-0 lead.
Gordon did more damage in the third when he led off with a double. Segura and Cano then repeated the sequence from the first inning, with Segura bunting and Cano singling. Cruz followed with a shot over the right-center field wall for his seventh home run of the year and a 4-0 lead.
"It's more relaxing as a hitter when you get those guys on base in front of you," Cruz said. "Dee got on base and Segura found a way to get him to third, so that makes it easy to drive in runs and put pressure on them."
Wade LeBlanc pitch four innings of three-hit ball in his first start since transitioning from the bullpen following Erasmo Ramirez's injury. Chasen Bradford (3-0) followed by allowing a run over 2 1/3 innings on a homer by Stephen Piscotty.
James Pazos, Juan Nicasio and Edwin Diaz took care of the rest. Diaz handled the ninth for his major league-leading 13th save.
Manaea (4-3), who came into the game with a 1.03 ERA and the lowest opponents' batting average (.134) in the majors, gave up four runs and six hits while striking out five in six innings.
Meanwhile, Gordon, who played with and befriended Suzuki while the two were with the Miami Marlins, said his paean was something that came from the heart.
"I knew I'd be hitting first, and me and Ichi have a good relationship," Gordon said. "I just wanted to show my thanks for the things he's done for me."
ICHIRO MOVES ON
Suzuki was released by the Mariners and is shifting into a front office role with the team, although he is not completely shutting the door on playing again.
The Mariners announced that Suzuki was becoming a special assistant to the chairman, effective immediately. The team said Suzuki will have an active presence with the team and assist with outfield play, baserunning and hitting.
But nowhere in the announcement do they say the 44-year-old is retiring, although Suzuki is precluded from returning to the active roster in 2018.
Mariners: Seattle selected RHP Erik Goeddel from Triple-A Tacoma to take Suzuki's spot on the active roster. Goeddel was 1-0 with four saves and a 0.00 ERA in nine games with Tacoma.
A's: RHP Daniel Mengden (2-3, 4.68 ERA) gets the start for Oakland in Friday's series opener at home vs. Baltimore. Mengden is 2-1 with a 3.74 ERA over his last four starts after going 0-2 with a 6.55 ERA in his first two outings of the season.
Mariners: Seattle welcomes the Angels for a three-game weekend series, with RHP Mike Leake (3-2, 6.48) slated to start Friday night's opener. Leake got the win in his last start in Cleveland on April 28, going six innings and giving up four runs on six hits.