Of all the teams that have pounded the Seattle Mariners over the years, few have pounded as long and hard as the New York Yankees.
The Yanks are 5-2 vs. the Mariners this season, 196-155 all-time – and 29-19 in Safeco Field.
Felix Hernandez hasn’t been able to slow them down. In his career, he’s 1-3 with a gawdy 5.92 earned run average against New York.
Tonight, Felix faces New York in a game that may be the only time some Cy Young Award voters on the East Coast see him. For some of those writers, what happens in baseball begins and ends with the Yankees – and a victory tonight would go a long way toward legitimizing his candidacy.
Fair? Of course not. But the world isn’t.
It’s Felix vs. A.J. Burnett.
Derek Jeter blooped a hit into center field, Johnny Damon bounced a ball into the right field seats for a double and the Yankees didn’t seem to care who was pitching against them.
Felix, however, got Mark Teixeira on a ground ball to first – the runners holding – and got Alex Rodriguez on a fly ball that scored Jeter.
With a runner on second, Hideki Matsui grounded out, and Mr. Hernandez had limited the damage to a run.
In the first: Yankees 1, Mariners 0
One run won’t be enough
Felix has settled in nicely, and the Mariners rallied in the third to get him even – although they could easily have taken the lead.
Ichiro singled for the second time, but was caught stealing when Burnett threw quickly to first base.
Franklin Gutierrez then doubled and Jose Lopez singled, picking up his career-high 90th RBI. Ken Griffey Jr. drew his second walk of the night, but the rally died there.
After three: Mariners 1, Yankees 1
That man Damon
New York has four hits – and Johnny Damon has three of them, including a double to open the sixth inning.
Catcher Rob Johnson was charged with a passed ball, sending Damon to third and Teixeira hit a fly ball plenty deep enough to score him.
Small mistakes – a passed ball, getting picked off first leading off an inning – can be the difference between winning and losing against playoff teams. An unearned run tonight is the difference so far.
In the sixth: Yankees 2, Mariners 1
More trouble for Felix
Nick Swisher dropped a pop fly double into left field to open the seventh, instantly creating a Yankee threat.
Hernandez struck out Robinson Cano – then wild-pitched Swisher to third while walking Melky Cabrera.
Felix got out of it by getting a ground ball double play from Jose Molina.
In the seventh: Yankees 2, Mariners 1
Another Seattle mistake
One-run game, Ichiro on first base after his third hit and -for the second time tonight – he leans too far off the bag and is picked off by Burnett.
To paraprhase Jerry Seinfeld: “Getting on base isn’t the most important thing – staying on base is the most important thing.”
After seven: Yankees 2, Mariners 1
Two outs, ninth inning, no one on.
Against Mariano Rivera, pinch hitter Mike Sweeney doubles – and Ichiro follows with a two-run home run.
That’s a final, folks: Mariners 3, Yankees 2