NEW YORK – Three at-bats into the game the Seattle Mariners had a 1-0 lead on the New York Yankees and looked like what they’d been for the past few weeks – a good team playing crisp baseball.
The rest of Sunday more or less collapsed around them, however, and the Mariners played sloppily enough to help a Yankees team that didn’t require it.
In the end, New York won the game, 6-2, and the series.
“It was just one of those days,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. “These guys have been real good defensively, it was just one of those days where there were a couple of plays we didn’t make. …”
Playing without starters Brendan Ryan (injury) and Mike Carp (paternity leave), Seattle got a leadoff single from Dustin Ackley, a sacrifice bunt from Michael Saunders and Jesus Montero’s RBI single before Freddy Garcia had the chance to break a good sweat.
Over the next eight innings, the Mariners would score one more run – and have a hand in creating half of New York’s six runs.
With two outs in the first inning and Monteo at second base, Kyle Seager singled sharply into right field. Montero rounded third base, where coach Jeff Datz had the “stop sign” up, but Montero kept going.
“I didn’t see him,” Montero said. “I just didn’t see him. It was close at the plate. If I got across the plate with my feet, I’m safe. I tried to slide past it and reach back with my hand, and he tagged me.”
That was the Mariners’ first mistake. There were others, and Hisashi Iwakuma paid the price for them.
New York tied the game in the first inning when, with one out and men at second and third base, Seattle’s infield put on a defensive shift for Mark Texeira, with second baseman Seager playing way out on the outfield grass.
Iwakuma got a routine ground ball – but Seager was so deep he couldn’t get an out, and Derek Jeter scored.
When the Yankees went ahead in the second inning, their run scored when a sharp ground ball by Curtis Granderson went through the legs of first-baseman-for-a-day Ackley. It was an error, and put Seattle behind, 2-1.
Garcia kept Mariners hitters chasing most every kind of pitch you can imagine, including an 89 mph fastball.
“Slider, curveball, change-up – he’s got a lot of different pitches,” Saunders said.
In the fourth, Chris Stewart stole second base on a pitch Montero couldn’t catch. Jeter’s two out single to center made it 3-1.
Iwakuma got through trouble in every inning, limiting damage. He had a no-decision after five good innings against New York two starts ago, then shut down Toronto for eight innings five days later. This time?
“I struggled with my command,” Iwakuma said. “I didn’t have my good control today.”
He didn’t walk many (2), he just couldn’t put his pitches precisely where he wanted them, and the Yankees kept putting them in play.
The worst example? Raul Ibanez hammering his 15th home run of the season in the fifth inning. Still, after Montero drove in a run in Seattle’s half of the fifth, Iwakuma left with the score 4-2.
One of those runs was unearned, another somewhat tainted.
“We kind of labored out there,” Wedge said. “Iwakuma went out there and battled. He’s faced this team twice now and given us the chance to win both times.”
In the sixth inning, the game got away.
After a walk and a single, New York had runners at first and second with one out for left-handed reliever Oliver Perez, who got Robinson Cano on a fly ball.
With Texeira at the plate, Perez threw a pitch that Montero couldn’t handle, and when it went to the backstop – passed ball – both runners moved up.
Wedge ordered an intentional walk to Texeira, but Ibanez foiled that with a two-run single – with the second run scoring only because of that passed ball.
Against Garcia and three relievers, the Mariners couldn’t come back and over the last four innings didn’t really threaten.
“We knew coming in this was a good team playing well at home,” Saunders said. “We were in all three games, we won once and lost two and now we go to Baltimore. That’s what we’re thinking about now, not New York.”firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @LarryLarue