Ibanez must think this is a postseason series
The Yankees were probably due for one of these games, but it always painful to watch when it happens. The offensively-challenged Mariners bolted out of the game with seven runs in the first inning and kept adding to their light-hitting totals on the way to a 12-2 victory Wednesday night behind the solid pitching of the latest Japanese sensation, Hisashi Iwakuma.
Leading the way was none other than Raul Ibanez, who has been a terror against his 2012 team. Showing that he has lost none of his power stroke at Yankee Stadium, Ibanez belted two home runs, one a grand slam, and knocked in six runs. That gives him three home runs and eight RBI in the past two games. What does he think this is, the American League Division Series or the AL Championship Series?
The Yankees have had 11 come-from-behind victories, but this proved too uphill a climb for them. Iwakuma gave up solo home runs to Vernon Wells and Chris Stewart and little else in his seven innings as he improved to 5-1 with a 1.84 ERA. Iwakuma, 32, is proving that his 9-5, 3.16-ERA record in 2012 for Seattle was no fluke. He and Felix Hernandez have been a dangerous 1-2 pitching combination, although they rarely get this kind of run support.
Phil Hughes suffered his poorest outing of the season and one of the worst of his career in giving up seven runs, six hits and two walks in two-thirds of an inning, which shot his ERA up from 4.43 to 5.88. It was only the second time a Yankees starter failed to complete the first inning in the current Stadium. It also happened May 21, 2009 with Joba Chamberlain against the Orioles (2/3 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs).
“Phil was up in the zone,” manager Joe Girardi said. “You can pitch up in the zone, but he got too many balls in the middle of the plate.”
“I didn’t have much of a fastball, so I tried changeups and sliders,” Hughes said. “I kept trying to find something. I’m going to have trouble sleeping the next four nights. You have to put the team in a situation like this where eventually some guys are playing out of position. The last thing you want is for someone to get hurt.”
Girardi did resort to some musical chairs in the blowout. Stewart moved from behind the plate to play first base. In the ninth when poor Brett Marshall in his major-league debut was wiped out by throwing 108 pitches, Girardi had shortstop Alberto Gonzalez get the last out.
“I didn’t want to use another reliever and asked Alberto about it before the inning,” Girardi said. “I picked him because shortstops usually have the most accurate arms.”
In the same move, Wells, who had been the designated hitter, played second base. Last week, the career outfielder played an inning at third base.
There were not too many bright sides for the Yankees, but there were some. Preston Claiborne added to his scoreless stretch of pitching with 2 1/3 innings of one-hit, two-strikeout relief and has now been unscored upon in five appearances and seven innings. Triple A Scranton call-up David Adams made his major-league debut on his 26th birthday and had a single in four at-bats and handled five chances in the field without incident.
Lyle Overbay had two more hits, a double and a single, to continue his terrific job at replacing Mark Teixeira at first base. Over the Yankees’ first 40 games, Overbay is batting .266 with 10 doubles, one triple, six home runs and 24 RBI. Through 40 games a year ago, Teixeira hit .229 with nine doubles, five homers and 22 RBI.