The loss pulled Seattle (67-59) another game closer to .500 and further back of the American League’s second wild-card berth.
The winning run was scored just three batters into Wednesday’s series finale between the Mariners and Yankees, when New York rookie Gary Sanchez smashed Hisashi Iwakuma’s first pitch into the bleachers above the left-field wall.
There was still plenty of baseball to be played, of course, lots of runners left on base and a gradual widening of the gap between the teams.
But from the moment Sanchez’s solo home run left his bat, the ultimate outcome was rarely in doubt.
The Yankees defeated the Mariners 5-0 on Wednesday afternoon at Safeco Field, a crowd of 41,536 on hand to watch the hosts lose their first series since the end of July.
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The game was the last of a six-game homestand, with a seven-game trip starting Thursday in Chicago against the White Sox. The loss pulled Seattle (67-59) another game back closer to .500 and three games back of the American League’s second wild-card berth.
Sanchez continued his hot start to life in the major leagues – while the Mariners never even really got going.
The 23-year-old catcher out of the Dominican Republic followed up on his first-inning bomb with a hard-hit double in the fifth and two intentional walks. Sanchez is now hitting .531 with seven runs, three doubles, 10 runs batted in and those seven homers in his last nine games.
“He did a lot of damage against us,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “And it’s not just the damage – it’s how he’s doing it. He’s hitting the ball out of the park. He’s a good-looking young player.”
On Wednesday, Sanchez almost immediately took the air out of the crowd, despite an impressive turnout on a cloudless Seattle summer day.
Iwakuma (14-9) was shaky all afternoon but kept the Mariners in it.
New York doubled its lead in the bottom of the second, when Aaron Judge beat Norichika Aoki’s throw from left field to the plate. It went up 3-0 in the fourth courtesy of Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly. But Robinson Cano spared Iwakuma further damage with a backhanded play deep in the hole, and the righty worked out of danger again in the fifth by inducing a one-out double play.
Iwakuma lasted six innings, allowing six hits while walking two and striking out three.
“Sometimes you have your stuff and sometimes you don’t have your stuff,” Iwakuma said through an interpreter. “When you don’t have your stuff, it’s about executing, making pitches when you have to. I was able to do that for the most part.
“The first inning wasn’t good.”
His opposite number and fellow Japanese countryman Masahiro Tanaka (11-4) kept the Mariners off-balance throughout seven strong innings. Seattle rarely so much as threatened.
Leonys Martin missed a two-run home run by about a foot in the bottom of the second – instead settling for about as long a single possible – and Cano grounded into a double play with two on in the third. Otherwise, Tanaka cruised.
Tanaka threw seven innings, scattering six hits and walking just a single batter. He struck out five, two of them in his final inning of work.
Aoki’s single with one out in the eighth was Seattle’s first hit in three innings, inspiring a short-lived “Let’s go, Mariners” chant. Seth Smith struck out and Cano singled. Mike Zunino pinch-hit for Nelson Cruz, who was removed from the game with back spasms, going down looking.
“We’re in a tough spot in our schedule,” Servais said. “Our third baseman was out today, and he’s been a big part of our team. Our four-hole hitter is a little banged up. We’re up against it. Knowing the guys in this clubhouse, if you look around at the coaching staff and everybody, we’ll show up in Chicago, we’ll go out and compete and we’ll find a way. We have all year.”
AL wild-card race
|The top two wild-card teams make the postseason and will play in a one-game playoff|