The Yankees have had their fair share of awful West Coast kicks in recent years, and after a frustrating series loss in Oakland, this trip had the potential to drag. Yet Masahiro Tanaka stepped up with a masterful performance last night against the Mariners to help change the tenor of the road trip. Lance Lynn pitched in with a quality start tonight, as the Yankees downed the Mariners 4-2.
The Yankees wasted no time jumping out to a lead. Andrew McCutchen, who homered in the series opener, smashed another long ball to lead off the game against Felix Hernandez. McCutchen’s tenure in pinstripes got off to a slow start, but he’s starting to heat up, helping add more depth to an already deep lineup.
The Mariners struck back with a solo shot of their own in the bottom of the third. Mike Zunino, he of the .189 batting average but also considerable power, got a fastball right down Broadway from Lynn and demolished it out to dead center. Statcast had the blast at an estimated 436 feet.
Through the game’s early stages, that was all the Mariners could muster against Lynn. He entered the fifth inning having allowed one hit, but the Yankees struggled to get Lynn the lead. They consistently had runners on against Hernandez but couldn’t strike a quick knockout blow, stranding men on base and grounding into double plays to let Hernandez off the hook.
The Yankees finally got to King Felix in the fifth. Brett Gardner walked to lead off and stole second, and McCutchen walked to put two on with none out. Hernandez departed then with what was reported as a hamstring injury, after just four-plus innings and 75 pitches.
Shawn Armstrong came on for Hernandez and limited the damage. The Yankees took a 2-1 lead after a passed ball and sacrifice fly from Giancarlo Stanton, but Aaron Hicks had the poor fortune to line into a double play to end the inning.
The Yankees’ bad luck continued in the bottom of the frame, as Lynn gave up the lead without giving up a hard-hit ball. Kyle Seager led off with a soft liner up the middle for a single. Ben Gamel followed by reaching on a fielder’s choice, and advanced to second on a weak grounder to third from Zunino. Gamel came around to score the tying run after Dee Gordon lofted a bloop just in front of Gardner in left.
Some tough BABIP luck was probably to be expected from Lynn, however, as he hardly missed the Mariners’ bats. He used almost exclusively fastballs and forced only a handful of swings and misses. Instead, Lynn produced a bucket of batted balls, and while he generated mostly weak contact, it was likely that at least a couple flares would find grass.
All in all, though, Lynn was solid tonight. His last outing against the Tigers was his worst as a Yankee, as Detroit knocked him around for six runs in 3.2 innings, but Lynn bounced back for six strong. He only struck out two but walked none and yielded just three hits.
Austin Romine nudged the Yankees back ahead in the top of the seventh. The backup catcher drove a solo home run out to the opposite field off reliever Nick Vincent for a 3-2 lead. It was Romine’s tenth homer of the year, nudging his wRC+ to 99 on the season, easily a career best. It says something that such a middling line represents a career year for Romine, but he came up big tonight.
With a lead in hand, Aaron Boone went to his bullpen, even though Lynn had only thrown 76 pitches. Zach Britton handled a perfect seventh, and David Robertson struck out the side in the eighth. The Yankees extended their lead in the ninth, when Miguel Andujar was hit by a pitch, Adeinny Hechevarria singled, and Gleyber Torres hit a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.
Dellin Betances came on for the ninth and ran into some trouble, walking Nelson Cruz to load the bases with one out. He came charging back to strike out Denard Span and Seager to end the game and notch his third save of the season.
Andujar is worth monitoring, as the young third baseman left the game after being hit by the Mariners Ryan Cook. That was the only real blemish from the Yankees’ perspective, as they played a mostly sharp game and beat an opponent that they should defeat. The victory clinched a series win in Seattle, and with Boston falling to the Astros, brought the Yankees to a still-distant 7.5 games back in the division. They will go for a sweep tomorrow afternoon with CC Sabathia toeing the rubber.