A few years ago, the Yankees were pretty much the only team that figured out how to beat Pedro Martinez: you couldn’t. You just had to wait him out and take care of business against the bullpen. That’s exactly how the Yankees beat Felix Hernandez and the Mariners on Tuesday, keeping the game close and going to work late for a 4-3 win.
Shut Down By Felix
It wasn’t a question of whether Felix Hernandez would shut the Yankees down, just how embarrassing it would be. The right-hander came into this start with a 3.08 ERA (~3.92 FIP) in 14 career starts against the Bombers, including a 1.13 ERA (~2.46 FIP) in five starts at the new Yankee Stadium. He stayed true to that form and limited New York to just one run in six innings, striking out eight. Felix left the game due to some kind of injury — the trainer came out to visit him during his final inning and he was shown flexing his left leg. He threw 97 pitches and surely had enough left in the tank for another frame.
The Yankees did have some opportunities against Hernandez, however. They had runners at first and second with one out in the first, a runner at third with one out in the third, and runners at first and second in the fourth. Those opportunities resulted in zero runs. It wasn’t until Lyle Overbay doubled into the right field corner with two outs in the sixth that they scored their first run, and they got lucky the ball didn’t hop over the fence for a ground rule double. It hit off the very top of the wall and stayed in the field of play, allowing the runner to score from first. Felix wasn’t super duper sharp, but the Yankees really couldn’t touch him.
Three-Reliever, Two-Strike Rally
As soon as Hernandez was out of the game, the Bombers went to work. Chris Nelson opened the seventh inning with a solo single to center, then advanced to second on Yoervis Medina’s wild pitch. Brett Gardner put runners on first and second with a walk, then Robinson Cano knotted the game at three with a two-run double off the right-center field wall. I thought it was gone off the bat. Following a pair of walks to load the bases, Overbay gave the Yankees the lead with a sacrifice fly to center.
The go-ahead rally stood out for two reasons … well, really one big combined reason: the quality of the at-bats. Nelson, Gardner, and Cano all reached base in two-strike counts, and seven of the eight hitters saw at least four pitches in their at-bats. Five saw at least five pitches. The Yankees really worked the three relievers Seattle manager Eric Wedge used in an attempt to stifle the rally, those classic grind it out at-bats that have defined the team’s offense for the last 18 years or so. It’s not the first time they’ve put together a come from behind rally like this this year.
CC Sabathia wasn’t particularly sharp but he wasn’t bad. Just okay. The ten strikeouts were matched by the ten hits allowed, including a run-scoring double by Michael Saunders and a two-run homer by former Yankee Raul Ibanez. Those hits accounted for the three Mariners runs and were also the first two extra-base hits Sabathia allowed to left-handed hitters this year. Three runs (two earned) in 6.1 innings is fine for most pitchers, but CC ain’t most pitchers.
David Robertson and Austin Romine combined to create a mess in the eighth, as the former walked the leadoff man on four pitchers before the latter got cute and tried to cut down the lead runner on a sacrifice bunt. Everyone was safe. Robertson pulled off a Houdini act and escaped the jam with a strikeout and a line drive double play, which really should be created to the coaching staff and Jayson Nix for his perfect positioning. Mariano Rivera tossed a flawless ninth for his 16th save in 16 chances. He got a gift strike three call to end the game.
Curtis Granderson’s first game of the season was mostly uneventful. He grounded into a double play, grounded back to the pitcher, struck out, and walked to load the bases in the seventh. He looked fine in left field as well, though he didn’t have any real tough plays. Ibanez hit a solid line drive out his way, but nothing that required a dazzling play. First day back went well enough.
Weird game for Overbay, who made two defensive miscues and ran into a defensive obstruction. The first bad defensive play was a simple ground ball to first that he flipped to Sabathia instead of taking himself, allowing Ibanez to beat out the infield single. The second was another simple ground ball that he just muffed, leading to the unearned run. Overbay was then ruled safe at first in the fourth inning when Hernandez stood in the baseline on a play at first. He was originally called out before the umpires conferenced and (correctly) awarded him first base. Standing in the baseline is a no-no. Weird day for Lyle.
The Yankees have not hit a homer in three games now, their first three-game homerless streak since July 2011. They already have four homerless wins in 2013 after having only seven last year.
I don’t remember what inning it was, but that scripted Zoo York/Chad Ortiz (?) bit by the YES booth was just brutal. Where’s the remote, I’m going to put on the Mets for the next few minutes bad. Let us never speak of that again.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the up to the minute standings. Both the Red Sox and Orioles blew leads and lost on Tuesday, so the Yankees now lead the division by a full two games. They also have the most wins (25) in baseball.
Same two teams on Wednesday night, when Phil Hughes squares off against Hisashi Iwakuma. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch the game live. Oh, and apparently the Arrested Development Banana Stand will be at the Stadium from 3:30-8pm ET on Wednesday, so there’s another reason to buy a ticket and go.