The Mariners have won both of their road series this season and have improved to 5-6 overall.
NEW YORK — The baseball gods owe Felix Hernandez a win or two.
After so many outings, including his previous one in Seattle, where he’s pitched with brilliant dominance, only to see a deserved notch on his record frittered away under a variety of circumstances, Hernandez picked up his first win of 2016 on a day where his command was nonexistent, he tied his career high for walks and barely made it out of the fifth inning.
The Mariners’ offense provided just enough run support — scoring three runs in the top of the fifth inning — and four relievers limited the Yankees to just one run in final four innings to secure a 3-2 win on Saturday afternoon.
M’s @ N.Y. Yankees, 10:05 a.m., ROOT Sports
After losing five straight games at home, Seattle has won three straight games and secured a series victory over the Yankees. The Mariners have won both of their road series this season and improved to 5-6 for the season.
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“We just came in and played,” Hernandez said. “We don’t want to pay attention to what happened at home. We just have to focus on the next day. That’s the thing in baseball. You have next day in baseball to get the job done. We’ve won two out of three; hopefully tomorrow we can sweep the series.”
Saturday’s game felt nothing like Friday night’s comfortable victory. It was a grind from the first inning to the final pitch when closer Steve Cishek got Chase Headley to ground out to Robinson Cano with the tying run on third base and the winning run on second for his first save as a Mariner.
“I didn’t want it to be that sketchy after getting the first two outs so easy, but hey, they aren’t all going to be easy,” Cishek said.
Nothing about the win was easy, starting with Hernandez going just five innings, and allowing one run on five hits with the six walks and four strikeouts.
“I wasn’t happy with my performance,” he said. “Too many walks.”
Hernandez walked a batter in every inning and two batters in the second inning. In three starts this season, he’s walked 13 batters in 18 innings.
“That’s a lot,” manager Scott Servais said.
Hernandez certainly didn’t expect to issue that many free passes as he prepared to pitch Saturday. The new Yankee Stadium is a place he’s dominated. In his previous eight starts in the building, he was 5-1 with a 1.38 ERA.
“You aren’t going to believe me, but in the bullpen I was painting — every pitch,” he said. “When I got into the game, it wasn’t there. There was a lot of movement on the ball. The ball was going everywhere. It was mechanics. I was behind the ball a little bit. I was all over the place.”
And yet, the Yankees got just the run in the third inning on a Carlos Beltran double to left-center that scored Mark Teixeira, who of course reached on a walk.
“He didn’t make it look easy,” Servais said. “That’s not really Felix. He hasn’t had a feel or command of the fastball. It’s something he needs to tighten up, but he kept us in the game with what he had and that’s what we ask our guys to do.”
The Mariners gave him the lead in the top of the fifth, knocking Yankees starter CC Sabathia out of the game. Leonys Martin led off the inning with a towering solo homer to deep right field, jumping on a 1-2 slider that hung up in the zone to tie the score at 1-1. It appeared the Mariners cost themselves a run when Luis Sardinas was thrown out at third base overrunning the bag on Ketel Marte’s infield single for the second out of the inning. But a calculated decision by Manny Acta gave the Mariners the lead. On a 2-2 pitch with Marte stealing, Cano bounced a single up the middle. Acta never hesitated and kept waving Marte toward home as he approached third base.
“I was a little surprised,” Marte said. “I looked at Manny and he was sending me. I was just trying to give 100 percent. If he sends me, I have to go.”
With Jacob Ellsbury having a below-average throwing arm in center, the Mariners attacked the weakness and Marte was able to slide in safely.
“You anticipate by looking at where they are playing and he was running on the pitch,” Acta said. “He runs very well. (Ellsbury) doesn’t have the strongest arm and you have to challenge him because there are two outs. He deserves all the credit. A lot of guys would have just pulled off and been comfortable at third.”
The Mariners tacked on another run when Nelson Cruz pulled a ground ball just inside the third-base bag for a double to score Cano.
Hernandez posted a scoreless bottom of the fifth, despite allowing a one-out double to Beltran and issuing a two-out walk to Headley.
On his 106th pitch of the game, Hernandez struck out Didi Gregorious looking to end the inning. That strikeout was the 2,162nd of his career, tying him with Randy Johnson for most in Mariners history. He’ll have to wait until Friday in Anaheim to pass Johnson.
“He’s a great guy, first,” Hernandez said. “We’ve talked a lot. Just to be up there with him is a great honor.”
The Mariners bullpen navigated the four innings of relief with just one run allowed — a solo homer from Beltran off Nick Vincent in the seventh.