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'Chief,' 'Pickles' lead Yanks over M's

MLB.com

NEW YORK -- Sonny Gray relished his best start so far for the Yankees, as the man known as "Pickles" during the ongoing Players Weekend festivities fired seven innings of one-run ball in Saturday's 6-3 victory over the Mariners.

Gray allowed just three hits and struck out nine, and he is now 2-3 with a 2.70 ERA in five starts since being acquired from the A's in a July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline deal.

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NEW YORK -- Sonny Gray relished his best start so far for the Yankees, as the man known as "Pickles" during the ongoing Players Weekend festivities fired seven innings of one-run ball in Saturday's 6-3 victory over the Mariners.

Gray allowed just three hits and struck out nine, and he is now 2-3 with a 2.70 ERA in five starts since being acquired from the A's in a July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline deal.

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Jacoby Ellsbury (aka "Chief") went 2-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs, Brett Gardner racked up three hits and Starlin Castro (aka "All-Starlin") provided a two-run single in the seventh. The Yankees improved to 69-59 and moved to 3 1/2 games back of Boston in the American League East after the Red Sox lost to the Orioles.

Video: SEA@NYY: Gray punches out nine over seven innings

"It was nice to be able to take advantage of Sonny's performance," Ellsbury said.

Backup catcher Carlos Ruiz (aka "Chooch") homered in the third and had two of Seattle's three hits off Gray, but the Mariners missed a chance to leapfrog the Twins into the second AL Wild Card position, as they dropped back to 66-64.

Video: SEA@NYY: Ruiz hooks a solo shot to left to tie game

Seattle narrowed the margin with RBI singles by Kyle Seager (aka "Corey's Brother") and Guillermo Heredia (aka "El Conde") in the eighth, but Dellin Betances (aka "D.Dawg") closed things out in the ninth for his 10th save.

"Not a lot going on today," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "Obviously, last night was kind of an emotional win [2-1 in 11 innings on Friday] and coming out today in a day game after a big win last night, you have to get after it right away. But we just didn't get much going, offensively, and a lot of that had to do with Sonny Gray."

Veteran right-hander Yovani Gallardo (aka "Yo") lost his third consecutive start for Seattle, falling to 5-10 with a 5.78 ERA as he gave up four runs on four hits and five walks in 5 2/3 innings.

Video: SEA@NYY: Seager slaps an RBI single to right in 8th

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Two-out damage: Ellsbury's three-run home run was the big blow in the fourth off Gallardo, but it was set up by a two-out single by Greg Bird in his first game back from the disabled list, followed by a walk by Chase Headley (aka "Head"). Ellsbury then lifted a 1-0 cutter into the short porch in right field with a 336-foot drive to make it 4-1. It was Ellsbury's seventh homer of the season and third in his past 10 games.

Video: SEA@NYY: Girardi on Ellsbury's clutch at-bats in win

"That was huge," Gray said. "That was such a big moment in the game. From then on, we really felt good about ourselves."

"It just stayed a little lower than I wanted," Gallardo said of the pitch. "Unfortunately, he just got enough to hit it out of the ballpark. It's a short right field, and it just went out."

No Gray area: The Yankees starter flirted with trouble in the sixth when he hit Nelson Cruz with an inside pitch and then plunked Seager in the foot to put two on with one out. But Gray proceeded to strike out Mitch Haniger with a nasty 81-mph curve, then induced a first-pitch flyout to center by Ben Gamel to escape the jam.

Video: SEA@NYY: Gray and Bird on Yankees' 6-3 win

QUOTABLE
"I just prepare each day like I'm going to start. I do everything I can, in the video room and the cage, so I'm ready when my number is called." -- Ellsbury, who has seen his playing time drop in the second half of the season

Video: SEA@NYY: Ellsbury puts Yanks on board with RBI single

"The goal coming in was win the series. We still have a chance to do that tomorrow. Hopefully we get Robbie in the lineup and get our offense clicking a little more." -- Servais, who was limited to using Robinson Cano (aka "Don't You Know") as a late-inning pinch-hitter for the second straight game due to a sore hamstring

Video: SEA@NYY: Servais on tough 6-3 loss to Yankees

WHAT'S NEXT
Mariners: Left-hander Andrew Albers (2-0, 3.60 ERA) gets the start in Sunday's series finale at 10:05 a.m. PT in his third outing since replacing the injured James Paxton. The 31-year-old was 12-3 with a 2.61 ERA in Triple-A for Atlanta before being acquired in a cash deal on Aug. 11. With Seattle, he has picked up his first MLB wins since 2013.

Yankees: Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (aka "Masa") goes for his second straight win since coming off the DL in Sunday's 1:05 p.m. ET series finale. He is 9-10 this season with a 4.86 ERA.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Danny Knobler is a contributor to MLB.com based in New York who covered the Yankees on Saturday.

Starlin Castro, Jacoby Ellsbury, Yovani Gallardo, Sonny Gray, Guillermo Heredia, Carlos Ruiz, Kyle Seager