After Felix's exit, Yanks pounce on Mariners
Cano keys seventh-inning rally with double; Sabathia fans 10
NEW YORK -- The Yankees are deeper than they were on Monday, and they haven't lost any of their trademark resilience. New York welcomed Curtis Granderson back to the fold against Seattle on Tuesday, and then it employed a patient wait-and-see approach against Felix Hernandez.
The Yankees couldn't solve Seattle's ace -- a common cause celebre among American League teams -- but they took advantage of his early exit. Hernandez left with a two-run lead after six innings, and the Yankees used a key seventh-inning rally to earn a 4-3 victory over the Mariners.
Granderson went hitless in the victory, his first game after starting the season on the disabled list. The Yankees are still without injured regulars Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, but manager Joe Girardi loves the way that his team has met the challenge.
"I still think we have a lot of really good players," said Girardi. "Maybe not the names of the guys we're used to having here, but guys that have had big years. This group has worked really hard. As a manager and as a coaching staff, we appreciate what they're doing. We've also got to applaud them because they're playing extremely well. It seems to be a different guy every night finding a way to get it done for us. It's been a good month and a half, but we know we have a long way to go."
That philosophy will serve the Yankees (25-14) well in the turbulent AL East, and it even worked against Hernandez. Robinson Cano came through with the game's big hit, a two-run double to the gap in right-center field, and he later scored the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly by Lyle Overbay.
"We were kind of battling," Overbay said of the Yankees' struggles against Hernandez. "His changeup is so late-breaking and it looks like his fastball. He doesn't make too many mistakes. I think we fouled [some] off and had a couple of good at-bats to get him deep into the pitch count. Some days, it's like, 'Let's see if we can get to the bullpen.'"
The Mariners, prior to that reversal of fortune, had owned the game's momentum. Seattle used an error and a Kyle Seager double to score the game's first run in the third inning. Three innings later, Raul Ibanez drilled a two-run homer down the right-field line to give Seattle (18-21) a three-run lead.
"He made a mistake to Raul," Girardi said of starter CC Sabathia. "We got pretty accustomed to seeing [that] when you make a mistake to Raul, a lot of the time, he hits it out of the ballpark."
And with the way Hernandez had been pitching, that drive appeared to be enough. Hernandez came into Tuesday's game with a 4-0 record and a 0.71 ERA in his last five starts. And even after Tuesday's no-decision, the right-hander is 4-1 with a 1.18 ERA in his career at the new Yankee Stadium.
"We had some chances off [Hernandez], but he basically did what he usually does," Girardi said of Seattle's ace. "He gets people out when they get on [base]. He even gets better."
On this night, Hernandez didn't get to finish the job because he was hobbled. The right-hander was involved in a bizarre obstruction play at first base in the fourth inning -- a collision with Overbay that turned a force play into an error on the pitcher. Overbay was originally ruled out on the play, but the umpires converged and collectively decided that Hernandez had blocked the runner's path to the base.
"On the type of play like this, which was a ground ball, it doesn't matter if the runner is 89 feet away when he gets obstructed or if he's one inch away," said third-base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt to a pool reporter. "If he is obstructed before first base, the ball is dead and he is awarded first base."
Hernandez overcame the collision and the call but tweaked his back in the sixth inning, and the Mariners chose to end his night at 97 pitches rather than risk further injury.
"It's the Yankees; you've got to fight every inning," Hernandez said of his no-decision. "I was trying to put zeros up there because CC is going to throw a good game. It was kind of tough, but I just made good pitches after that. I felt good, felt strong. Just hard luck for us."
Sabathia struck out 10 and allowed three runs (two earned) on 10 hits over 6 1/3 innings for the Yankees, and he helped keep the game close enough for the offense. Sabathia allowed both the Seager double and the Ibanez homer, and prior to Tuesday night, he had held lefties to a .166 average (5-for-30) with no extra-base hits.
"I just wanted to try to minimize the damage and make sure I keep the game close enough where we can have a chance to win," Sabathia said of his no-decision. "My offspeed pitches were working when I needed them in some counts and early in the game. My changeup wasn't as good and my cutter wasn't as good, but I was still able to go to it to get some outs later in the game."
Rookie reliever Yoervis Medina started the seventh and gave up a leadoff hit to Chris Nelson, and he also advanced the runner on a wild pitch before striking out Austin Romine. Charlie Furbush relieved Medina and walked Brett Gardner before Cano tied the game with his double.
David Robertson avoided trouble with a scoreless eighth inning, and closer extraordinaire Mariano Rivera recorded his 16th save in as many chances with a clean ninth. New York's relievers haven't allowed a run over their last nine games, and they made sure the comeback counted on Tuesday.
"I think winning those games is really important," said Girardi. "Because those games can have a real effect once you start losing them. Our bullpen has done a great job for us this year. We've had a lot of close games. Mo has 16 saves already. I mean, that's quite a pace that he's on.
"But those games are extremely important. The ones that you're ahead, you need to win. That's the bottom line. If you want to play in the month of October, you have to win those games."
Overbay has five go-ahead RBIs this season -- tied with Vernon Wells and one behind Travis Hafner for the team lead -- and has quickly emerged as a talisman for the shorthanded Yankees. The more times he comes up to the plate, said Girardi, the more the Yankees believe in him.
"It's a lot different," Girardi said of the team's perception. "He's had so many big hits and RBIs for us. He got us on the board and then he got the game-winner. He's been really good wherever we play him. We've managed to play him almost every day. I feel good about him when he's at the plate."