NEW YORK — The Mariners stayed away from the back end of New York’s vaunted bullpen in winning the first two games of their weekend series at Yankee Stadium.
Not so on Sunday.
New York right-hander Masahiro Tanaka nursed a one-run lead through seven innings, which enabled Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller to close out a 4-3 victory over the Mariners.
"They’re filthy," right fielder Nelson Cruz said. "They’ve got great stuff. It’s upper 90s-plus, and they’ve got great breaking pitches."
Betances struck out the first three hitters in the Mariners’ lineup in the eighth inning before Miller struck out the side in the ninth for his third save.
Neither Betances nor Miller has allowed a run this year in 11 combined innings. So the Mariners settled for winning two out of three in the first step of their three-city trip.
"The key is to win series, no doubt," manager Scott Servais said. "But it would have been nice to sweep here. I think we’re playing much better, obviously, than we played at home (in a 1-5 stumble at Safeco Field)."
The Mariners had just erased a 3-1 deficit by scoring single runs against Tanaka (1-0) in the fourth and fifth innings when the Yankees regained the lead on a wild pitch.
One-out singles by Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran put runners at first and third before Hisashi Iwakuma (0-2) threw a low pitch that got through catcher Steve Clevenger.
"I got a glove on it," Clevenger said, "but, you know, I retreated my glove a little bit. If I get my glove to the ground, it’s an easy block."
It was scored a wild pitch. And it was decisive.
Iwakuma and Tanaka, former teammates at Rakuten in Japan, each worked seven innings. Iwakuma gave up four runs and eight hits, while Tanaka allowed three runs (two earned) and six hits.
"It was very exciting to face your ex-teammate," Iwakuma said. "Just watching him in general, he was pitching with composure. He kept the ball down. Looking at that, I said to myself, `I’ve got to keep the ball down, too.’
"I was able to make that adjustment, but it was too late."
The Mariners nicked their way to a 1-0 lead in the first inning by coupling three ground-ball singles with the Yankees’ failure to turn a double play.
After singles by Seth Smith, Robinson Cano and Cruz loaded the bases with one out, Kyle Seager hit a grounder to second.
It should have been a double play, but Starlin Castro’s poor throw to second forced the Yankees to settle for one out. Smith scored.
Iwakuma made it through the first inning but gave up two runs on two pitches in the second inning. The first one clipped Brian McCann, and Alex Rodriguez turned on the next one, a 86-mph fastball, for a two-run homer.
A-Rod’s homer snapped a 0-for-19 skid.
New York added another run in the third inning after Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a single, stole second and went to third on a Clevenger throwing error.
Gardner’s drive to left-center hopped the wall for an RBI double, which broke a 0-for-26 stretch by the Yankees with runners in scoring position.
The Mariners closed to 3-2 in the fourth by making the Yankees pay for another defensive lapse — a two-base error by first baseman Mark Teixeira on a Seager grounder. Clevenger delivered a two-out RBI single.
An inning later, the Mariners pulled even after Ellsbury missed a diving catch on Nori Aoki’s sinking liner to center. It went for a triple, and Smith followed with an RBI grounder through a shortened infield.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Catcher Steve Clevenger probably should have stopped the wild pitch in the fifth inning, which permitted the winning run to score.
"It’s a ball that should have been blocked," he said, "and it cost us a run."
PLUS: Seth Smith had two of the Mariners six hits. His single in the first led to a run, and his single in the fifth drove in a run…Iwakuma pitched through the seventh. With an open date Monday, the Mariners will have a rested bullpen when they open a three-game series Tuesday at Cleveland.
MINUS: Catcher Steve Clevenger, in addition to failing to block the key wild pitch, bounced his first two throws to second on stolen-base attempts. Only one was an error because the other runner didn’t advance to third…Kyle Seager returned to the lineup after a one-day break but went hitless in four at-bats. His average is down to .119 (5-for-42)…first baseman Adam Lind and shortstop Ketel Marte were each 0-for-3 and looking up at the Mendoza Line. Lind is batting .172 (5-for-29), and Marte is batting .195 (8-for-41).
STAT PACK: Robinson Cano went 1-for-4, which extended his road hitting streak to 15 games dating to last season. It is the longest current such streak in the big leagues…the Mariners are 15-15 at the new Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009…Clevenger’s RBI single in the fourth inning was his first hit of the season. He finished at 1-for-3 and now 1-for-10 overall.
QUOTABLE: Mariners left fielder Nori Aoki previously faced Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka while they two played in Japan. But Sunday marked the first time in the big leagues.
"The image is pretty much the same," said Aoki, who was 1-for-3 against Tanaka with a triple. "He attacks hitters, and he’s always had great stuff. I still see the same stuff."
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners