NEW YORK -- The Mariners came east looking to learn where they stood among the Major Leagues' best and brightest. So far, the answer hasn't been favorable, as the Yankees edged Seattle, 4-3, on Thursday, handing the Mariners their first series sweep of the season.
The Mariners still own a 46-29 record, far above preseason expectations, and a healthy lead over the Angels in the early race for the second American League Wild Card spot as they seek to end a 16-year postseason drought.
But Seattle now has lost a season-high four games in a row to the Red Sox and Yankees, and the Mariners now head to Boston for a three-game set at Fenway Park to face the team with the second-best record in the Majors.
"These were tough games, and obviously, we were on the wrong side of it," said Mitch Haniger, who went 1-for-13 in the series. "That's a good team over there, but I still like our guys in this clubhouse, and I think we're going to give them a battle. I'm looking forward to playing them again."
The Yankees maintained the Major Leagues' top clip at 50-22 by jumping to a quick 4-0 lead in the first inning against Mariners standout lefty James Paxton, and then holding on as their own ace, Luis Severino, picked up his 11th win of the season.
Kyle Seager went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer and Nelson Cruz was 2-for-3 with a double, a walk and two runs scored, but the Mariners couldn't quite overcome their early deficit, as they went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Ben Gamel notched Seattle's only other RBI, driving in Cruz with a single in the sixth inning.
"We were battling. We were in all these games," said Seager. "Especially these last two, we were right there at the finish. That's baseball. It happens. You go on little runs and this type of stuff, but I don't think anybody is too worried about it. We've been playing too good to panic over that."
Paxton gave up two first-inning homers -- a pair of two-run shots by Aaron Judge and Miguel Andujar -- before settling in. The big lefty didn't yield any further damage, but he lasted just five innings while throwing 107 pitches.
"I just kind of had trouble getting it going today," Paxton said. "I had to battle, because I just didn't have much. I made some better pitches late, but just didn't have much command. It was just a tough day. I was just letting it rip. I really couldn't put it anywhere I wanted to today, so I was just rearing back letting it go. 'Here's my best stuff, try to hit it' kind of thing."
Paxton allowed seven hits and walked three while racking up nine strikeouts, and he is now 6-2 with a 3.72 ERA. The loss was his first since his season debut against the Indians on March 31, but he's totaled just 7 1/3 innings with 14 hits and 10 runs in back-to-back starts against the Red Sox and Yankees.
"It was a couple tough starts, but really two bad innings is all it is," said Paxton, who gave up six runs in one error-plagued frame in his previous outing. "I just have to find a way to get back to my plan and what works for me, and try to turn it around in the next start."
The Mariners had never before been swept at the new Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009. The last time they were swept in the Bronx was a three-game series in April 2008. But despite the sweep, Seattle is still 21-15 on the road this year.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Haniger saved Paxton from allowing three homers in the first when he went above the wall to rob Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton's drive to dead center was projected at 414 feet by Statcast™, which was actually farther than either of the balls that cleared the wall -- a 382-footer by Judge and 339-foot fly by Andujar.
"I don't know if it's easier, but when the ball is hit with more trajectory and is higher up, it's easier to take your time into the fence and take your head off it and look," said Haniger, who moved over from his normal spot in right field in place of Guillermo Heredia for just the sixth time this season. "That's why, generally, balls in right and left are hit more on a line and you have no time to take your head off. So yeah, with robbing a home run, the more time you have and the higher he hits it, the easier it is, as long as it's obviously not out of reach."
HE SAID IT
"Our pitching has been phenomenal, and it was great today. I don't know if either of those two homers are gone in Seattle. That's kind of tough. There's a little bit of a park effect there." -- Seager, on why he feels the Mariners are equipped to bounce back from their first four-game skid
Wade LeBlanc (3-0, 2.63 ERA) takes on Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright (2-1, 1.23 ERA) in Friday's 4:10 p.m. PT series opener at Fenway Park in a rematch of a 1-0 Mariners win last Saturday in Seattle. LeBlanc allowed just two hits with no walks and nine strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings in that duel, and he is 3-0 with a 2.06 ERA in nine starts since moving into the rotation.