It seemed like the Yankees caught a break when it was announced yesterday that Roenis Elias would be making tonight's start instead of ace Felix Hernandez. King Felix has always dominated the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, and instead it looked like the Yankees could feast on a rookie. Welp.
Hiroki Kuroda ran into trouble early. With one out, Stefan Romero lined a single to center and Robinson Cano shook off the boos to drill an opposite-field double. That scored Romero for the first run of the game, but it could have been worse. After Corey Hart grounded out, Kyle Seager laced a ball to left-center field that seemed destined to fall for an RBI double. Jacoby Ellsbury had none of that though and made a terrific diving catch to rob Seager and end the inning. Ellsbury followed this defensive display by drilling a leadoff homer to the right field seats, his first dinger as a Yankee, and the Yankees' first leadoff homer since August of 2012.
The Yankees were the recipients of some luck in the second, as Dustin Ackley appeared to be thrown out at second on a strike-'em-out/throw-'em-out double play to end the inning. Despite a laser throw from Brian McCann that was in plenty of time, Brian Roberts lifted his glove too early and Ackley was safe. The umpire called him out and the Mariners didn't challenge it for some reason, so the blown call stood.
The Mariners broke the 1-1 tie thanks to some shoddy defense. Derek Jeter booted a grounder to start the third and Michael Saunders singled up the middle to move him to third. Cano hit a 3-0 pitch slowly toward Jeter and they were only able to get one out, so the runner from third scored. Meanwhile, following Ellsbury's bomb, the Yankees were quiet, striking out the side against Elias, and missing opportunities in the second thanks to a double play by the ice-cold McCann an easy two-out grounder to third by the elderly-looking Brian Roberts with runners on first and second. Carlos Beltran also bounced into a double play to end the third.
The Mariners added to that lead in the fourth, though the blame for that falls on Kuroda. Seager singled to right, and with one out, Dustin Ackley walked to move him into scoring position. Kuroda fanned Mike Zunino, but Brad Miller lined a single just in front of Brett Gardner, scoring Seager. Saunders made matters worse by slugging a ground rule double to left. Ackley scored and the Yankees lucked out that the ball went into the stands since Miller had already crossed home plate but had to go back to third. Romero flew out to end the inning and Kuroda settled down over his last two innings, but the damage was done. Even though, it wasn't the worst of days for Kuroda and his infield defense betrayed him, he could certainly have pitched a little bit better.
The bullpen entered in the seventh inning following Kuroda's departure, as Matt Thornton came on to face Miller. The lefty induced a fly ball but gave up a softly-hit single to Saunders. Joe Girardi decided to mix and match, bringing in Adam Warren to face Stefan Romero. It seemed like an odd move since Cano was the next hitter, but it paid off as Saunders was gunned down stealing and Romero fanned to end the inning. Warren continued his superb relief work with a perfect eighth inning. It's great to see him adapt to his bullpen role so well.
The Mariners repaid the Yankees for their shoddy third inning defense with some misplays of their own. With two outs, With two outs and a runner on, Mark Teixeira hit a grounder toward the left side of second base. Cano reached it, but Miller did not cover second base so when Cano threw it to him, he was not on the bag. Cano also could have simply tagged Soriano, but the Yankees received an extra out. McCann broke out of his slump a little bit with a single through the shift to score Soriano and make the score 4-2. Yangervis Solarte grounded out to end the threat. Elias threw a perfect seventh and his evening ended with seven brilliant innings and 10 strikeouts. The Yankees never really looked comfortable against him. They briefly had a chance to tie the game down to their last out in the ninth when Ichiro Suzuki lined a pinch-hit single against Fernando Rodney, but he induced a called strike three from Gardner to close out the Seattle victory.
Thoughts on your hitters, Kevin Long?