It did not take long for Kuroda to give up his first run of the game. On his third pitch, Dustin Ackley lined an impressive shot to the opposite field that easily cleared the left field fence for a lead off home run. It was Ackley’s second homer of the season.
The Yankees scored a run of their own in the bottom of the first. Derek Jeter led off and hit a soft liner to right. Ichiro Suzuki got a good jump on the ball and made a nice sliding catch. Curtis Granderson then singled and stole second as Alex Rodriguez struck out looking. With two outs, the hottest hitter on the East Coast, Robinson Cano singled and drove in Granderson. Cano assumed Ichiro’s throw would go to the plate and headed toward second. But Justin Smoak cut the ball off and Cano was a dead duck between first and second. Fortunately, Granderson scored before Cano was tagged or the run would not have counted.
Kuroda started the second inning by allowing a single and a walk with no outs. But the Mariners’ rally died with two outfield flies and a ground out. Both pitchers settled in nicely after that.
The Yankees had an opportunity in the bottom of the fourth. Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano started the inning with singles. And then Mark Teixeira singled to the opposite field. Seriously. Mark Teixeira as a left-handed batter went to left field for a hit. There is proof. There is video. Unfortunately, left fielder, Mike Carp handled the ball perfectly and threw a strike to home to punch out A-Rod trying to score. He might have been safe. But he was ruled out. Nick Swisher than hit a slow roller to Hernandez and Ibanez struck out to end the threat.
The Mariners had Kuroda a bit on the ropes in the top of the fifth. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with one out. But Kuroda struck out Brendan Ryan, who should not be batting second (though we aren’t complaining). Kuroda then got Ichiro to ground weakly to third and A-Rod stepped on the bag to end the inning.
The score stayed 1-1 until the top of the sixth. The first batter of the inning was Jesus Montero and it was sort of a deja vu moment when he flicked his bat out on an outside pitch and sent it over the wall in right for the second Mariner run of the night. It was a bittersweet moment.
But then the Yankees pulled out the game in the bottom half of the inning. A-Rod walked and Cano singled to make it first and second. Those two players went six for seven on the night with a walk. Teixeira then grounded to first. Smoak got Cano at second, but a hustling Teixeira beat the return throw and was safe at first. That was huge because Nick Swisher then was called out on strikes on a pitch that looked like a ball to make it two outs. It seemed that another rally was going to pass the Yankees by.
But then Raul Ibanez did his hero act once again and hit a fat Hernandez fastball into the right field seats. A-Rod was clearly pumped at the plate after scoring and Michael Kay and David Cone spent the rest of the night comparing Ibanez to Yul Brenner. The Yankees led, 4-2.
Kuroda walked Michael Saunders to start the top of the seventh, but Russell Martin gunned him down trying to steal and Kuroda easily finished the seventh to leave with a two run lead.
The Yankees knocked out Hernandez in the bottom of the seventh with a single by Jeter that almost decapitated the pitcher, a double-play ball hit by Granderson followed by a single by A-Rod. Eric Wedge brought in Charlie Furbush to face Cano and Cano is in one of those stretches where nobody can get him out. He doubled, but A-Rod stopped at third. Teixeira ended the threat with a ground out.
The Yankees used three pitchers to get an out apiece in the top of the eighth: Clay Repada, Cory Wade and Boone Logan. On a night where Tony La Russa was honored in St. Louis, Joe Girardi honored him by imitation. But it was a one-two-three inning.
Nick Swisher opened the bottom of the eighth with a single and moved to second on a ground out. Andruw Jones pinch hit for Eric Chavez to face the left-handed Furbush. But Wedge brought in a right-hander named Delabar and Jones proved he can still hit a 97 MPH fastball, hitting it into the Seattle bullpen in left for a bomb of a homer. The two runs pushed the lead to 6-2 and gave the Yankees a nice cushion heading into the ninth.
Boone Logan started the night against the lefty swinging, John Jaso, and struck him out. When Girardi did not come and get him, it seemed as if Girardi was going to let Boone get a save since he got the last out in the eighth with the score within two runs. But Justin Smoak hit a dribbler that A-Rod had to let die on the infield grass for a gift single. That was enough for Girardi who then brought in David Robertson in a non-save situation. Robertson easily got the last two outs to end the inning.
The Orioles beat the Hellickson and the Rays and are back in first place. The Yankees are two and a half games back and a game and a half behind the Rays. They will either be a half a game behind or ahead of the Blue Jays, who are playing the Twins tonight and are currently behind by a run.
Robinson Cano: Went four for four in the game and is on fire. His average is up to .308. Cano also made a nice, diving stop to rob Jesus Montero of a hit.
Alex Rodriguez: Two for three with a walk. His average is now up to .297
Raul Ibanez: Ibanez only went one for four, but his one was the big blow of the game.
Andruw Jones: That guy can hit a fastball.
Hiroki Kuroda: It wasn’t and “awesome” outing. He gave up six hits and three walks and only struck out two (he missed only six bats all night). But he went seven innings and only yielded the two solo homers.
Russell Martin: Had another great game behind the plate and another terrible one at the plate. Zero for four with two strikeouts. He is now batting .179.
These same teams go back at it tomorrow and 4:05. It must be the Fox game of the week. Phil Hughes and Hector Noesi will be the match up as both pitchers try to prove they belong in the rotation.