Alex Rodriguez homers and Masahiro Tanaka tops Hisashi Iwakuma in pitching matchup of former Japanese teammates.
NEW YORK — The Mariners’ hopes of a late-inning rally and a possible series sweep were extinguished by just over 13 feet of pitching nastiness in a 4-3 loss to the Yankees on Sunday.
Down 4-3 after five innings, the Mariners were more than aware that any victory hopes coincided with not trailing when the Yankees’ vaunted back end of the bullpen came into the game.
They had two innings to tie or take the lead before they would have to face the 6-foot-8, flame-throwing Dellin Betances in the eighth inning and 6-7 hard-throwing, left-handed closer Andrew Miller in the ninth. But Seattle failed to do either and Betances and Miller, who haven’t allowed a run this season, shut the door as expected, each striking out the side in dominant fashion.
Mariners @ Cleveland Indians, 3:10 p.m., ROOT Sports
“They’re really good back there,” manager Scott Servais said.
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Of the 24 batters he’s faced this season, Betances — armed with a fastball that touches 100 mph and a knee-buckling breaking ball — has struck out 15. He struck out Norichika Aoki, Seth Smith and Robinson Cano and needed just 13 pitches to do so. In his last four appearances, he’s recorded at least three strikeouts with no runs allowed.
Miller struck out Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager and Franklin Gutierrez, also on 13 pitches, while showing a fastball that touched 97 mph and a nasty slider, which he threw five straight times to Cruz. Miller has struck out the last seven hitters he faced. Of the 17 batters he’s faced this season, he has fanned 12.
“In the eighth and ninth inning, when those guys come in, they usually shut the door on you,” said catcher Steve Clevenger. “They are back there for a reason. You have to score early off (New York).”
Seattle was able to do that in Saturday’s win. Betances and Miller pitched with similar dominance, but Seattle had a one-run lead already in place and held on. The Mariners couldn’t get that lead against starter Masahiro Tanaka before the eighth inning. Seattle scored its three runs off Tanaka in the first five innings.
The Mariners loaded the bases in the first inning with three one-out singles, but could only muster one run off a Seager fielder’s choice. Adam Lind struck out to end the inning.
“We were obviously looking for a little bit more,” Servais said.
The lead was brief.
In the second inning, Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma threw two pitches and found himself trailing 2-1. Iwakuma hit Brian McCann with the first pitch of the inning. His second pitch was supposed to be an inside fastball to the slumping Alex Rodriguez. Instead, it leaked over the middle. And even with his bat slow and struggling, Rodriguez was still good enough to take advantage of the pitch, yanking a home run into the left-field seats.
“Two pitches that hurt me,” Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “A-Rod made me pay.”
New York pushed it to 3-1 in the third when Brett Gardner’s double over the wall in left-center scored Jacoby Ellsbury.
Seattle clawed back into the game with runs in the fourth and fifth inning. Seager reached on an error and later scored on Clevenger’s single to left field to cut it to 3-2. The following inning, Aoki hit a liner to center that bounced passed a diving Ellsbury, rolling to the wall. Aoki was thinking inside-the-park homer initially, but was held up by Manny Acta.
“From first base all the way to third base I was (thinking homer),” he said through Suzuki.
Smith scored Aoki two pitches later on a single up the middle to tie the score at 3-3.
But the Mariners and Iwakuma couldn’t keep it tied. Back-to-back singles from Gardner and Carlos Beltran put runners on the corners to start the bottom of the fifth. Iwakuma then uncorked a wild pitch on a 2-1 split-finger fastball that was able to get under Clevenger, allowing Gardner to race home with the deciding run.
“I was down, but I just brought my glove up a little bit,” Clevenger said. “It kind of took me to my right. But it’s still a ball that should have been blocked and it cost us a run. I got a glove on it, but if I get my glove to the ground it’s an easy block.”
Tanaka pounced on the lead, retiring the side in the fifth and sixth with ease. And then Betances and Miller did their thing. And just think, the Yankees get Aroldis Chapman and his 102 mph fastball back from suspension May 9.
Still, the Mariners picked up a much-needed series win after an abysmal homestand.
“It was a good ballgame,” Servais said. “The key is to win the series. It would have been nice to sweep here. I think we are playing much better, obviously, than we played at home. We won the series, got a day off tomorrow and then we go get Cleveland.”