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Yankees 5, Mariners 7: Baffling bullpen moves waste dinger display

Gary Sanchez and Starlin Castro hit two home runs each, but the Yankees bullpen couldn’t keep the lead.

MLB: New York Yankees at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees arrived in Seattle on Monday, four and a half games out of the second wild card spot. At 66-57, Seattle was only one and a half games out. Needless to say, the Yankees need to win these games against Seattle, who they will need to leapfrog in order to make the playoffs.

The game started off well for the Yankees. In the first inning, Gary Sanchez hit his seventh home run of the season off of a 84 mph slider that hung over the plate. In the bottom of the inning, aided by a double play, Michael Pineda held down the Mariners.

In the top of the second inning, Starlin Castro continued his hot play by crushing a home run to right center, making it 2-0 Yankees. Again in the bottom of the inning, Pineda was able to retire the side with the help of a well turned double play.

In the fourth, the Yankees had a chance to add to their lead when Sanchez and Didi Gregorius both singled to start the inning. The opportunity was wasted when Castro struck out and McCann hit into a double play to end the inning.

In the bottom of the fourth, Pineda got into some trouble that he finally couldn’t escape. After a double by Seth Smith and a single by Robinson Cano, the Yankees got a strange out. Nelson Cruz hit a grounder to third. When Smith ventured to far off the bag, Chase Headley threw home. The ball was dropped but Sanchez fired back to third where Smith was tagged out. Pineda couldn’t capitalize though, giving up a home run to Kyle Seager on a 3-0 fastball. 3-2 Mariners.

The Yankees fought back though. In the sixth, Ellsbury hit a single and Sanchez hit his eighth(!) home run of the season, his second of the game. We are really watching something special right now. Two batters later, Castro crushed a 3-2 fastball deep to center field for his second home run of the game. It was 5-3 Yankees.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, Pineda’s struggles continued in the bottom of the sixth. Cano started it off with a single, his third hit of the game. Next, Pineda walked Seager with one out. Although he had only thrown 83 pitches, Joe Girardi decided to go to bullpen. Tommy Layne came on and got Adam Lind to pop out for the second out of the inning. Girardi then decided to bring in Anthony Swarzak to face Mike Zunino, who promptly homered to right, making it 6-5 Seattle. It’s almost as if Swarzak does not belong on a major-league roster, let alone pitching in a close game. Again.

Kirby Yates gave up a solo home run to Nelson Cruz in the eighth and the Yankees didn’t threaten until the top of the ninth. Starting off the inning, Brian McCann was hit by a pitch. Aaron Judge struck out but Chase Headley hit a bloop single to center. Mark Teixeira came on as a pinch-hitter after that. Mariners reliever Edwin Diaz balked, moving the runners over to second and third. Teixeira, on a 3-1 count, hit a weak fly ball to left field. Brett Gardner grounded out to second to end the game.

It’s almost impossible to have any confidence in the Yankees bullpen outside of Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, and Tyler Clippard. The middle relief has been terrible all season and it cost them this game. As Jason wrote earlier today, it really seems like the Yankees are wasting their time with relievers who have no future rather than trying their young arms. Fans will try to be happy about Sanchez’s historic beginning to his career and Castro’s resurgence, but this one really stung. It was a winnable game, one that had several questionable pitching choices by Girardi.

Next, the Yankees take on Seattle again tomorrow at 10:10pm on YES with CC Sabathia getting the start.

Box score