Yovani Gallardo gave up three home runs to the New York Yankees on Sunday afternoon. Yet the Seattle Mariners right-hander stood to earn the victory when he departed after pitching five innings.
Yes, those dingers accounted for half of the Yankees scoring. But it was Seattle’s bullpen — and an inert offense for roughly half of the game — that ultimately flubbed this one, as three runs in the top of the sixth helped the Yankees to a 6-4 victory before a crowd of 38,503 at Safeco Field.
Left-hander James Pazos took the loss because he issued two walks, allowed two hits and yielded three runs after facing a total of five batters to start the sixth inning. New York departs Seattle after winning three of four games in the weekend series.
“It kind of came down to a battle of bullpens today,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said, “and theirs was a little bit sharper than we were in the sixth inning.”
The Mariners (49-51) scored all of their runs in the bottom of the fourth after loading the bases with nobody out against Yankees starter Caleb Smith. The bases were still loaded with two outs when left fielder Ben Gamel stepped to the plate, his team still trailing 3-0.
The long-haired left-hander prolonged the inning with a sharp single that scored two runs. Guillermo Heredia followed with a two-run double, Gamel scoring from first base to put the Mariners ahead 4-3. That was the final batter for Smith, who was chased after throwing only 56 pitches in 3 2/3 innings.
The comeback was necessary due to a trio of homers that staked New York (51-46) to an early lead. First it was Brett Gardner, the Yankees’ leadoff hitter, who saw exactly one pitch from Gallardo before yanking the second one over the right-field fence for a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
Gallardo didn’t have a problem with the location: “I’m not going to beat myself up about the second pitch of the game. Not much you can do about that. I made the pitch I wanted to make, and he just hit it out of the ballpark.”
Didi Gregorius, New York’s shortstop, smacked two dingers of his own, one in the second and one in the fourth, both to right field, to make it 3-0. Gallardo conceded those pitches were mistakes.
But while Gallardo wasn’t brilliant, he wasn’t bad, either, and that’s worth noting for a guy making his first start since being demoted to the bullpen last month. He lasted five innings, allowing three runs and five hits, and he struck out five batters with two walks. He threw 78 pitches. His final inning was his best; Gallardo retired the Yankees in order in the fifth, and struck out Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez back to back.
Servais said Gallardo lacked the aggression he had shown in four bullpen outings since his last start, but was happy the Mariners got out of him what they did.
“Give him credit,” Servais said. “He did hang in there. We needed to get five innings out of him, and he did it on 80 pitches or whatever, which is about the right number for him. He hadn’t been out there in a while (as a starter).”
Pazos took over in the sixth and faced New York’s 6-7-8-9-1 hitters: groundout, walk, walk, single, single. One run in, one out, bases still loaded. So out he went, and in came right-hander Tony Zych, who promptly yielded a two-run double to Clint Frazier that gave the Yankees a 6-4 lead.
“Pazos was not real sharp,” Servais said. “The walks came back to hurt a little bit, and (he) just couldn’t shut the door there in the sixth inning to work to some of our other guys.”
The Yankees nearly added another run in the ninth, but pinch-runner Jacoby Ellsbury was thrown out at the plate — right fielder Mitch Haniger to second baseman Robinson Cano to catcher Carlos Ruiz — on a two-out double by Chase Headley.
New York’s relievers were mostly impenetrable: Chad Green (the winning pitcher), Dellin Betances and David Robertson retired 13 consecutive batters to set up a save situation for closer Aroldis Chapman in the ninth. He allowed a leadoff single to Nelson Cruz, though pinch-runner Taylor Motter was immediately picked off of first ... right before Kyle Seager hit a double to center field.
Servais described Motter’s blunder as a “mental mistake,” and, well, yeah.
“I know Taylor’s not out there every day, but when you’re in that role, you’ve got to be mentally sharp and understand the situation,” Servais said. “That run – you’re down by two. It’s not like it’s the tying run. Really no need to get picked off there. Mental mistakes happen, and they certainly hurt.”
Seager moved to third on a passed ball, but Haniger popped out to second base and Gamel struck out to end the game.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Frazier’s one-out, two-run double that broke a 4-4 tie in the sixth inning and provided the winning margin for the Yankees.
PLUS: Heredia, filling in at center field for the injured Jarrod Dyson, made a diving catch in the fourth and drove in Seattle’s final two runs with a two-out double in the fourth. … The sixth was a mess, but Mariners reliever Emilio Pagan pitched three scoreless innings and struck out four.
MINUS: The inability of the Mariners’ bullpen to hold the lead in the sixth inning was especially damaging because of how effective they knew the Yankees’ relievers to be. … Seattle didn’t have a baserunner in the first, fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth innings.
STAT PACK: Pagan has allowed only one run in his last 18 1/3 innings, a stretch that spans six appearances. … Gamel’s hitting streak is now at 10 games. … The Yankees have won 13 of their last 15 games in Seattle.
QUOTABLE: “They’ve got a good club. We’ve got a good club. Today was a big game. Would have been nice to hang on to that lead and get out of here with a split. But we’ve got to get back to winning series. That’s been the focus here in the second half – win the series, keep winning series, and see where we’re at once we get into August. Unfortunately we didn’t get it done, but we’ll get back after it tomorrow.” – Servais