NEW YORK -- Ichiro Suzuki's torrid stretch prompted a move from the bottom third of the batting order to the second spot in the lineup for the second consecutive day Sunday, with manager Joe Girardi pointing to the outfielder's hot stretch and speed as the reasons for the move.
Ichiro went 14-for-20 with seven runs, five RBIs, three doubles, two home runs and five stolen bases in the five games entering Sunday's series finale against Oakland, lifting his average to .284, its highest mark since May 22, when he was still a member of the Mariners.
"He is locked in right now and playing extremely well," Girardi said.
Ichiro is hitting .335 (59-for-176) in 56 games as a Yankee after his average dipped below .300 for the previous year and a half for the first time in Seattle. The Yankees' July acquisition of the 10-time All-Star was contingent on Ichiro agreeing to giving up his usual spot atop the order and hitting mostly out of the eight-hole for the Yankees, along with platooning in the outfield.
Now, Girardi said he would even consider hitting Ichiro leadoff, but went with the second spot because Derek Jeter has consistently hit atop the Yankees' order this season. Nick Swisher hit second of late when Ichiro was at the bottom of the order, but Girardi moved him to the fifth spot, using Swisher's switch-hitting bat to break up left-handed hitters Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson.
"[Ichiro is] just swinging the bat so well and gives you a real speed element up there," Girardi said. "Swish has been really good with moving him around this year. He's kind of one of our wild cards in breaking up all of our lefties, so I had to move him around a little bit without [Mark Teixeira] being here."