Torment by ex-Mariners, the franchise’s recurring theme, struck again Sunday.
The culprit was Yankee designated hitter Raul Ibanez, who finished 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs, as New York polished off the shorthanded Mariners 6-2 to take two of three games, as they did recently in Seattle.
Seattle appeared poised for an offensive outburst against former ace Freddy Garcia in the first inning, despite the absence of hot-hittin Mike Carp. The first baseman flew to California Saturday to witness the birth of a daughter.
Dustin Ackley, who filled Carp’s spot at first base, lined the first pitch of the game into right field for a base hit. Michael Saunders followed with a sacrifice bunt. After Ackley advanced to third on a wild pitch, Jesus Montero laced a single to right to give the Mariners a 1-0 lead.
Montero advanced to second base when John Jaso grounded into a fielders choice. But after a two-out single by Kyle Seager, right fielder Nick Swisher threw out the lead-footed catcher at the plate when he ran through a stop sign from third base coach Jeff Datz.
The Yankees responded in the bottom of the frame as the Mariners displayed some shoddy defense. With shortstop Brendan Ryan missing action after being hit with a pitch on the elbow Saturday, Chone Figgins shifted to third and Seager to second while Munenori Kawasaki played shortstop.
The makeshift infield didn’t exactly thrive.
Curtis Granderson led off with a walk. After Derek Jeter grounded into a fielders choice, Robinson Cano grounded a ball back up the middle for a base hit. Jeter advanced from first to third, prompting a late throw from Saunders that allowed Cano to advance to second.
Mark Teixeira grounded to Seager. Shifted into shallow right field, he hesitated to to charge and had trouble transferring the ball out of his glove. Teixeira beat the throw and Jeter scored from third to tie the game.
“It was one of those days,” manager Eric Wedge said after his club slogged through a slow-paced game that took well over three hours. “There were a couple plays that we didn’t make. We didn’t have Carp or Ryan, so we had some guys who were playing positions they haven’t played a great deal of.”
In the second, New York took a lead it wouldn’t relinquish when Hisashi Iwakuma yielded a two-out double to catcher Chris Stewart. Granderson roped a grounder through Ackley’s legs to give the Yankees a 2-1 advantage.
Trouble continued for a laboring Iwakuma in the fourth when Stewart scored again on a Jeter single. The Mariners answered in the fifth when Saunders crushed a two-out double off the wall. Montero followed with a bloop single to cut New York’s lead to 3-2. But Seager couldn’t capitalize off a struggling Garcia with runners in scoring position. Despite lasting five innings, Garcia did just enough to get the win by giving up two runs on five hits.
The Yankees extended the lead in the fifth when Ibanez crushed an Iwakuma fastball into the right field bleachers. The blast spelled the end of the starter’s afternoon. Iwakuma yielded four runs on seven hits in five innings to pick up the loss.
After the Mariners again went quietly in the sixth, New York put the rubber game out of reach.
Reliever Josh Kinney walked Stewart, Granderson singled, then Jeter struck out. Wedge brought in Oliver Perez, loaded the bases by intentionally walking Teixeira.
The move backfired.
Despite quickly getting behind in the count, the veteran worked it to 3-2 before lining a base hit over a leaping Kawasaki. The two-run single extended New York’s lead to 6-2, capping an afternoon where he again abused Seattle pitching.
The performance marked the second time Ibanez came through against his former club this season. On May 11, he lined a go-ahead three-run blast off Felix Hernandez to give the Yankees a 6-2 win.
While Ibanez again played the role of villain, the Mariners offense managed just five hits, three in the first inning. Montero finished 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs, but no other Seattle hitter could manage more than one hit.
“I don’t feel like we are giving away at bats,” Wedge said. “We still need to get better with our pitch selection.”
The loss pushed the Mariners to 15-7 since the All-Star Break and 1-2 on the road trip as they head to Baltimore Monday for a three-game series against the Orioles Monday.
NOTES: The Mariners bench was whittled to just Miguel Olivo and Casper Wells Sunday thanks to Ryan’s injury and Carp’s absence. The Mariners are also without Charlie Furbush in the bullpen, which would have helped Sunday.