YANKEES 6, MARINERS 2
From the dawn of time this maxim has always held true: No matter how powerful the king, it is the strength of the opposing foot soldier who can dethrone him. On Friday night, that story played out in front of a paid crowd of 37,886 at Yankee Stadium.
Raul Ibanez, a loyal foot soldier if there ever was one, blasted a first-pitch fastball from “King Felix” Hernandez and drove the ball deep into the seats in right-center for a three-run home run in the sixth inning that gave New York a come-from-behind 6-2 victory over Seattle.
Ibanez’s mighty blow for the “Kingdom in the Bronx” supported a good outing from 37-year-old right-hander Hiroki Kuroda as the Yankees have now won five of their last six games.
Kuroda (3-4) gave up a leadoff solo home run to Dustin Ackley in the first inning and another solo home run to former Yankee mega-prospect Jesus Montero in the top of the sixth that gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead. Otherwise, Kuroda pitched brilliantly with runners on base.
He gave up only the two runs on six hits and three walks and he struck out two over seven innings.
The Yankees, however, wore down Hernandez gradually.
Hernandez (3-2) entered the game with a 3-0 record at the new Yankee Stadium and on a steak of 18 consecutive starts in which he had not allowed a first-inning run – the longest current streak in the majors. But the Yankees took care of that streak when Curtis Granderson stroked a one-out single, stole second and scored on a two-out single by Robinson Cano, who was 4-for-4 on the night.
After Montero untied it in the top of the sixth, the Yankees got busy wearing down Hernandez bottom of the frame.
Alex Rodriguez drew a leadoff walk and Cano followed with another single to right. After two were out in the inning, Ibanez stepped to the plate and he was looking for first-pitch fastball from Hernandez.
He got it and drove the pitch deep into the bleachers in right-center to give the Yankees their first lead of the game, which held up with the help of the bullpen.
Clay Rapada, Cory Wade, Boone Logan and David Robertson combined to pitch the final two innings and they retired the Mariners on just one infield single and struck out two.
Pinch-hitter Andrew Jones gave the Yankees their final margin with a two-run home run off Mariners reliever Steve Delabar in the bottom of the eighth.
Hernandez was charged with four runs on 11 hits and two walks and he struck out seven over 6 2/3 innings.
With the victory, the Yankees improved to 18-14. The Mariners fell to 15-19.
- Though he did give up a pair of solo homers, Kuroda did an excellent job keeping the Mariners from scoring with runners in scoring position. The key at-bat of the game came with two out and the bases loaded with Mariners in the fifth inning and fellow Kuroda countryman Ichiro Suzuki at the plate. Kuroda was able to induce Suzuki to hit a grounder to Rodriguez at third and Rodriguez stepped on third to end the inning without the Mariners scoring a run.
- Cano is blazing hot now with his 4-for-4 night. He has a nine-game hitting streak and is 16-for-36 (.444) in that span with two home runs and eight RBIs. Cano has raised his batting average from .255 at the start of the streak to .308.
- Ibanez followed up his two-homer, three-RBI game against James Shields and the Rays on Tuesday with this huge three-run home run against Hernandez on Friday. Ibanez is hitting .268 with six home runs and 19 RBIs on the season.
- Though he is not hitting much for power, Rodriguez is getting on base with regularity lately. He was 2-for-3 with a walk in the game and he is now hitting .361 in his last 10 games. A-Rod has raised his season average to .297 although he has only five home runs and 14 RBIs.
- I hate to keep beating a dead horse but the only player who played in Friday’s game and got an at-bat but did not get a hit was Russell Martin. The veteran catcher was 0-for-4 and his batting average has now dipped to .179. After going 3-for-4 with a home run on Saturday against Kansas City, Martin is 1-for-16 (.063).
- A combination of a bad decision by third-base coach Rob Thomson and some hesitation before rounding third base by Rodriguez cost the Yankees a run in the fourth inning. Rodriguez was on first and Cano was on second when Mark Teixeira looped a single to shallow left. Thomson chose to send Rodriguez. Rodriguez slowed up just before reaching third thinking Thomson would hold him. But he then tried to speed up when he saw Thomson waving him in. Rodriguez was cut down easily by left-fielder Mike Carp’s throw to Montero at the plate.
- Nick Swisher did single to lead off the eighth but his previous three at-bats were horrible. In the second, Swisher flew out to left with a runner at first and no outs. In the fourth, he bounced out to Hernandez with two on and one out. In the sixth, he struck out looking with Rodriguez on third and Teixeira at first and one out. Ibanez, however, did bail him out with his home run after the strikeout.
The Yankees, as expected, activated Eric Chavez on Friday when he was deemed recovered from his concussion by Major League Baseball. However, in a surprise move, the Yankees elected to send Eduardo Nunez to Triple-A Sranton/Wilkes-Barre and kept utilityman Jayson Nix on the roster. Nunez was batting .294 with no home runs, five RBIs and six stolen bases in 51 at-bats as a backup infielder. But the reason Nunez is being sent down had to do with his fielding. Nunez has committed a team-leading four errors this season, including two errors while playing at third base that led to two unearned runs scored off CC Sabathia by the Rays on Thursday. Nunez was replaced in the field in the sixth inning by Nix. Last season, Nunez led the Yankees in errors with 20 despite playing only half the innings the regulars played. Manager Joe Girardi said the Yankees might have hurt Nunez by asking him to play too many positions. Girardi said Nunez will play most of the time at shortstop at Scranton and he occasionally will play second base. The biggest loss for the Yankees is the speed Nunez provides. With Brett Gardner out another two to four weeks with a strained right elbow, Granderson is the only true base-stealer the Yankees have in the lineup.
The Yankees will continue their three-game series with the Mariners on Saturday.
The Yankees will start 25-year-old right-hander Phil Hughes (2-4, 6.67 ERA), who is coming off his best two starts of the season. On Sunday, Hughes held the Royals to three runs on six hits over 6 2/3 innings. He is 3-2 with a 3.21 ERA in his career against the Mariners.
The Yankees also will see another old friend in a Mariners’ uniform on Saturday in right-hander Hector Noesi (2-3, 6.30 ERA). Noesi, along with Montero, were traded to the Yankees this winter in return for 23-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda and 19-year-old right-hander Jose Campos, who both are currently on the disabled list with arm problems. Noesi is coming off a one-run, four-hit outing of seven innings in a victory over the Twins.
Game-time will be 4:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.