Looking at pitching match-ups for the three-game series in New York, Sunday looked like the least of the Mariners’ chances to pull out a game — winless Kevin Millwood against Andy Pettitte, a Yankees hero coming out of retirement for his first game of 2012 in front of a Mother’s Day sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium.
But the outcome proved why it’s so hard assume anything in baseball.
Casper Wells, a native of upstate New York and a huge childhood fan of the Yankees, drove in three runs, including a two-run homer off Pettitte, 39, to provide Millwood, 37, support for his best game of the season and a 6-2 win over the Yankees.
Millwood pitched seven tough innings, giving up only three hits, and was backed up by three double plays to get his first win as a Mariner. He was joined in the seasonal recovery room this weekend by first baseman Justin Smoak, who also had a two-run homer off Pettitte, to complete a 6-for-12 weekend.
The Yankees won the series 2-1 with 6-2 wins Friday and Saturday, but the Mariners’ 6-2 retort not only broke a nine-game road losing streak, it left the Seattle crowd happy with production from unlikely sources, including the bullpen.
After Millwood left the game after seven leading 4-1, the Yankees loaded the bases in the eighth against four relievers. But after Charlie Furbush walked Robinson Cano to force in a run with two outs, he struck out slugger Mark Teixeira on a 2-2 pitch.
Closer Brandon League finished the ninth and Millwood, who recorded his 2,000th career strikeout, had his first win in Seattle.
“The biggest thing is we played really good defense,” Millwood said. “Double plays, running down balls in the outfield. For me, I was changing speeds pretty well, moved it around and kept it mostly on the ground, which is big in this ballpark.”
Pettitte had a no-hitter until Smoak broke through in the fourth with his homer for a 2-0 lead. The Yankees took one back in the fifth when Russell Martin drew a bases-loaded walk, but leading hitter Derek Jeter bounced into a 6-6-3 double play deftly handled by shortstop Brendan Ryan.
In the sixth, after Dustin Ackley opened with a single, Wells, in his first game at Yankee Stadium, lifted a fly ball to right field that banged off the foul pole for a home run. As he entered the dugout, he blew a kiss to his mother in the stands.
“She said before the game, ‘Just hit a home run on Mother’s Day,” Wells recounted on ROOT Sports. “I said sure — it’s an easy thing to do.'”
The Mariners put up some some padding in the ninth when Alex Liddi doubled for his second hit of the day. Ryan walked after a 10-pitch at-bat. Wells send a chopper back to the mound that hit off the glove of reliever Clay Rapada, who recovered the ball but threw wildly past first. Liddi and Ryan scored.
Millwood’s steady work against a power lineup was big.
“I can’t say enough about his performance today,” Wedge said. “He’s pitched better (this season) than his numbers indicated. He was outstanding today. He did a great job with secondary stuff off his fastball.”
Millwood and rookie catcher Jesus Montero had previous problems communicating on pitches, but that seemed resolved Sunday.
“It was a lot better,” said Wedge. “For Jesus, we wanted to get him back with Kevin, who is a consummate pro. He supports everybody, particularly his catchers. They did a nice job of working together.”
Wedge was also happy with Smoak’s progress.
“He’s moving in the right direction, and has to keep working to lock in a solidify it,” he said. Regarding the home run, “He had good plate coverage, was quick with it.”
The Mariners were scheduled to take the train to Boston Sunday evening for games Monday and Tuesday before moving on to Cleveland Wednesday and Thursday.