The Yankees were staring a 1-6 road trip in the face as late as the eighth inning, but some late-inning magic got them the series win over the Mariners on Wednesday afternoon. Thankfully, they’re done with the West Coast for the remainder of the season.
New York Nix
Joe Girardi has shown a knack for leaving Raul Ibanez in to faced left-handed pitchers in the late innings of close games — getting burned on it Tuesday night — but he wised up and went to his bench in this game. The Yankees were down a run in the eighth and had loaded the bases with no outs on a hit-by-pitch and a pair of singles, but Curtis Granderson popped out into foul territory for the first out. Girardi’s choices were Ibanez vs. lefty Lucas Luetge — the matchup that failed on Tuesday — or Jayson Nix vs. righty Shawn Kelley. He went with the latter.
Nix worked the count to 2-2 with a pair of foul balls before golfing a slider — I didn’t think it was that bad of a pitch, certainly not a real hanger — over the outfielders’ heads and into the left-center field gap. The Yankees had been just 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position up to that point and neither of those hits scored a run, but Nix cleared the bases and put himself in scoring position. Russell Martin singled him in three batters later to complete the four-run inning that turned a one-run deficit into a three-run lead. It was the biggest hit the Yankees have had in a while, probably since Ibanez’s grand slam against the Blue Jays.
Ivan Nova allowed singles to two of the first three batters he faced … and then no hits the rest of the way. He did walk a career-high six though, including one to force in a run in the first inning. The Mariners pushed another run across in the inning with a sacrifice fly but didn’t get anything else off the Yankees’ starter. Nova was pitching himself into and out of jams all night but at the end of the day, two runs in five innings is a fine start. Shorter than you’d like, but give Ivan some credit for battling when he clearly wasn’t feelin’ it.
Nova walked the first two batters in the sixth before being lifted, but unlike the eighth inning on Tuesday, everyone Girardi brought in out of the bullpen did the job. Clay Rapada coaxed a double play ground ball from the only batter he faced, then David Phelps struck out Casper wells to end the inning before chipping in a scoreless sixth. He faced 16 batters on the road trip and retired them all with nine strikeouts. Me thinks we’ll be seeing lots more of Mr. Phelps in important late-inning situations.
David Robertson and Rafael Soriano followed with scoreless eighth and ninth innings, respectively, to seal the win. The only baserunner allowed by the relief corps was a dinky little two-out single by Wells off Soriano, when the game was effectively over. Between Nova and the four relievers, the Yankees retired 17 of the final 23 men the Mariners sent to the plate. That’ll do.
Derek Jeter hit a long solo homer to left-center in the first inning to open the scoring and he’s pretty much the only player in baseball able to walk over to stands to shake hands with Wayne Gretzky in the middle of a game. Maybe David Ortiz could get away with it as well, but I’m guessing A-Rod would have been crucified.
The Cap’n had three hits while Robinson Cano had two. Ichiro Suzuki, Mark Teixeira, Granderson, and Martin chipped in singles though Ichiro was thrown out trying to steal second by former Yankee Jesus Montero. Eric Chavez, the new primary third baseman with Alex Rodriguez on the shelf, drew a pair of walks. One was intentional though. Andruw Jones struck out in three of his four at-bats and in ten of 15 plate appearances on the road trip. Woof.
Crazy Thought: This may have been Ichiro’s final game in Safeco Field. That might not mean much to Yankees fans, but I’m sure the Mariners faithful are getting a little choked up at the thought.
Box Score, WPA Graphs & Standings
Now that graph is much more like it. MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Rays wrecked the Orioles, so the lead over both teams in the division is eight games.
So long, West Coast. The Yankees are done with their Pacific Time Zone schedule for the season and head home for a three-game series with the Red Sox starting Friday. Phil Hughes and Aaron Cook will open that series after the Yankees take Thursday off.