YANKEES 5, MARINERS 2
With the Yankees having lost third baseman Alex Rodriguez for at least four weeks with a fractured left hand, speculation is running rampant that the Yankees will trade for a replacement. However, Jayson Nix might have convinced the front office to delay those plans.
Nix was called upon to pinch-hit in the top of eighth inning with the bases loaded and one out with the Yankees trailing the Mariners 2-1. Nix promptly laced a 2-2 fastball from Shawn Kelley to clear the bases as New York rallied late to defeat Seattle on Wednesday at Safeco Field.
Nix was hitting .235 with three home runs and seven RBIs in 85 at-bats when manager Joe Girardi sent him to the plate in place of designated hitter Raul Ibanez to face left-handed reliever Lucas Luetge (1-1). But Mariners manager Eric Wedge elected to replace Luetge with the right-handed Kelley.
Nix battled Kelley to a 2-2 count before slapping his three-run double in the gap in left-center to give the Yankees a 4-2 lead.
After Kelley walked Eric Chavez intentionally and Andruw Jones struck out, Russell Martin padded the Yankees’ lead to 5-2 with a lined single to left to score Nix.
David Phelps (2-3) pitched 1 1/3 innings of spotless relief, fanning two batters, to pick up the victory in relief. David Robertson pitched a perfect eighth inning and Rafael Soriano tossed a scoreless ninth to pick his 26th save in 28 opportunities this season.
The victory allowed the Yankees to clinch the three-game series with the Mariners and salvage what has been a costly 2-5 West Coast road trip.
The Yankees took an early 1-0 lead on the Mariners when Derek Jeter blasted a one-out solo home run in the first inning off Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma.
But Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova walked John Jaso on four pitches to load the bases with one out in the first inning and then he missed low with a 3-2 pitch – the 10th of the at-bat – to Kyle Seager to allow the Mariners to tie it up.
Mike Carp then slapped a grounder to Mark Teixeira but Teixeira was unable to turn it into a double play because of an errant throw to Jeter at the second base bag and the Mariners were able to take a 2-1 lead.
The score stayed that way because the Yankees were unable to produce a hit with runners in scoring position off a less-than-overpowering Iwakuma.
Iwakuma gave up only one run but surrendered six hits and three walks while striking out three in five innings. The Yankees did not even manage to get one hit or one walk off relievers Oliver Perez and Josh Kinney over the next two innings.
But Kinney opened the eighth inning by plunking Jeter in the left thigh with the first pitch.
Luetge was summoned and Robinson Cano and Teixeira greeted him with back-to-back singles to load the bases. Curtis Granderson then fouled out for the first out and set in motion the managerial moves that brought Nix to the plate with the game on the line.
Nova only gave up two runs on two hits in his five-plus innings of work. However, he walked six batters while striking out five. He left the game in the sixth inning after opening the inning by walking Jaso on four pitches for the third time and then issuing a second walk to Seager.
But Clay Rapada bailed Nova out by inducing Carp to hit into a double play and Phelps stranded Jaso on third by fanning Casper Wells.
The Yankees managed to keep the Mariners hitless for 7 1/3 innings after Michael Saunders and Jesus Montero singled off Nova with one out in the first inning. They did not get a hit again until Wells singled on a 0-2 pitch with two out in then ninth off Soriano.
But Soriano fanned Carlos Peguero to end the game.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their season ledger to 59-39 and they increased their lead in the American League East on the second-place Baltimore Orioles to eight games. The Mariners fell to 47-53.
- Nix’s clutch pinch-hit three-run double was his biggest hit since he was called up from Triple-A in early May. The Yankees were stranding runners in scoring position all day long and Nix was the unlikeliest hero. Give Girardi credit for choosing to remove Ibanez in favor of the weaker hitting Nix, which forced Wedge to bring in Kelley. Nix could see a lot of playing time now, barring a trade, as part of platoon at third base with Chavez to replace Rodriguez.
- Phelps, 25, has looked very impressive in his last four appearances with the Yankees (covering two separate stints). He is 1-0 with an 0.93 ER. Phelps has given up only one run on two hits and three walks and struck out an amazing 17 batters in 9 2/3 innings. The Yankees very much needed another power arm in the bullpen and Phelps is providing it.
- Jeter, batting in the second spot behind Ichiro Suzuki, was 3-for-4 and with an RBI and two runs scored. In his last nine games, Jeter is 12-for-32 (.375) with a home run, two RBIs and six runs scored. He has raised his season average to .311.
- Nova, despite the fact Jaso entered the game just 1-for-5 against him, decided to not throw a single strike to him in any of his three at-bats. The walk with two out in the third inning did not hurt. But walking Jaso in the first was followed by a walk to Seager to force in a run. Nova walked Jaso and Seagar to open the sixth and that ended his outing. The six walks in five-plus innings cost him a potential victory and it ended his day early because of his high pitch count.
- Jones, pressed into service against a right-hander because of Nick Swisher’s injury, was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and he left five runners on base. Since his three-run home run against the Toronto Blue Jays on July 17, Jones is two for his last 18 at-bats (.111) with 10 strikeouts. His season average has dipped to .224.
- Ibanez was not much better than Jones. He was 0-for-3 with a strikeout and stranded two runners. In his last five games, Ibanez is 3-for- 19 (.158) with one RBI and five strikeouts. His season batting average has slipped to .235.
Rodriguez’s broken left hand was fitted for a splint on Wednesday and he is scheduled to undergo an exam on Thursday with team doctor Christopher Ahmad. There is no timetable established for his return. Rodriguez suffered the injury in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s game when he was struck by a pitch from right-hander Felix Hernandez. Rodriguez was the third batter Hernandez had hit with a pitch in the game. The Yankees placed Rodriguez on the 15-day disabled list and recalled utility infielder Ramiro Pena from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. . . . Swisher said he hopes to be able to start in Friday”s game after missing the last five games with a strained left hip flexor. Swisher said he had no problems running in the outfield at Safeco Field before the game and he also was able to take some swings in the batting cage.
The Yankees will have a day off on Thursday to lick their wounds, physical and otherwise, before opening a weekend home series against a slumping Boston Red Sox team on Friday.
Phil Hughes (9-8, 4.09 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Hughes gave up just two runs on three hits and one walk and struck six batters over 7 2/3 innings in a game which the Yankees scored him just one run in a tough-luck loss to the Oakland Athletics on Saturday. Hughes is 2-6 with a 6.49 ERA lifetime against the Red Sox.
The Red Sox will counter with slop-tossing right-hander Aaron Cook (2-3, 3.50 ERA). Cook gave up five runs (three earned) on five hits over 6 1/3 innings in a loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday. He is 0-1 with a 7.94 ERA in his only meeting with the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.