Across the first three weeks of a very long season, the Yankees giving Ichiro Suzuki a two-year deal appeared to be a mistake.

A player with a Hall of Fame resume looked confused at the plate and the once powerful and accurate throwing arm was neither. Watching Ichiro struggle, it was fair to wonder if the two great weeks he delivered last year were a mirage.

They still might be, but last night Ichiro looked like the player he was in Seattle by using his speed on the bases and his bat to drive in the game-winning run in a 4-3 victory over the Rays in front of 17,644 at Tropicana Field.

“There are always a few guys who get off to a slow start, there is no rhyme or reason,’’ manager Joe Girardi said of the 39-year-old Ichiro, who started last night’s action batting an embarrassing .200. “Over here, everyone questions you when you are older.’’

For most of the game the question was could the Yankees’ lineup, that was without Kevin Youkilis for a third straight game due to a lower back issue, score enough runs to avoid making a solid outing by Phil Hughes useless.

Matched against reigning AL Cy Young winner David Price, Hughes allowed two runs and six hits in seven innings.

By the time David Robertson took the mound to start the eighth, Ichiro’s legs helped tie the score, 2-2.

Ichiro singled with one out and was moving when Jayson Nix singled to left. Ichiro never hesitated around second and beat left fielder Matt Joyce’s throw to third.

Brett Gardner’s ground ball to the right side wasn’t hit hard enough to turn a double play and Ichiro scored the tying run.

An inning later the Yankees scored twice with Ichiro’s first-pitch single to center scoring Robinson Cano and Travis Hafner for a two-run cushion for Mariano Rivera in the ninth.

By now everybody knows how much firepower the Yankees are missing without Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira. Last night the list included Youkilis.

So, twice the Yankees went first to third with runners moving and Eduardo Nunez turned it into the Yankees’ first run in the fourth.

“We are going to be a little more aggressive going first to third,’’ Girardi said. “You can do a lot of little things.’’

Despite Price starting the game 0-1 with a beefy 6.26 ERA in four starts, winning a game that you trail by a run in the eighth and knowing Fernando Rodney is waiting at some point feels like more than a single victory.

“It feels like a little bigger win,” Girardi said.