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Ichiro first to 200 hits in 10 straight years

TORONTO (Reuters) - Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki became the first Major Leaguer to record 200 hits in 10 consecutive seasons when he singled in Thursday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Seattle Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki doubles in the third inning of their MLB American League baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto September 23, 2010. REUTERS/Fred Thornhill

Ichiro reached the milestone when he lined a single up the middle on the first pitch he saw in the fifth inning of a 1-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

“My team mates all celebrated for me so I realized it would be okay to be happy about the record,” said the 36-year-old, who tipped his cap to the crowd as he received a standing ovation.

“It hasn’t been easy to achieve but it kind of feels a bit strange because I didn’t set the record as a target this season.”

The Japanese player’s hit also tied Pete Rose’s big-league record for the overall number of 200-hit seasons in his 10th year in MLB. Rose had held the record since September 25, 1979. His 10 200-hit seasons were not consecutive.

“I have several options when I face pitches despite being in an era when pitchers are supposed to have the advantage,” Ichiro told reporters. “Those options add depth to my batting.

“I want to pass (Rose’s) record. It’s been a tough road to get to this point so it’s a relief. I know more than anyone how hard it’s been.”

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Los Angeles Angels slugger Hideki Matsui led the plaudits for his countryman Ichiro.

“The record speaks for itself,” said Matsui. “But the most amazing thing is that he hasn’t had a serious injury for the last 10 years.

“That’s the result of meticulous preparation and looking after your body.”

Former Seattle team mate Kenji Johjima pointed to Ichiro’s dedication to improving his technique year after year.

“His success comes from all the hard work on his technique and his ability to avoid injury,” said Johjima. “He rarely gets hurt -- the way he prepares is incredible.

“I hope he goes on breaking records next season. It’s a terrific record.”

Japan’s home run king Sadaharu Oh described Ichiro as a role model.

“It’s been a hard year for him with all the expectation,” said Oh, who managed Ichiro when Japan won the World Baseball Classic in 2006.

“But he coped with it and got the job done. He is a source of pride and courage for the Japanese people.”

Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina and Alastair Himmer in Tokyo; Editing by Frank Pingue and Greg Stutchbury; To query or comment on this story email