Yanks fall to pitcher on the comeback trail

Sometimes the best story is in the other dugout. That was the case Friday night as comeback-minded Jeremy Bonderman came up with a quality start for the Mariners against the Yankees in a 4-1 Seattle victory. The righthander did not pitch the past two seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and a right chest ailment.

Bonderman has not had much success against the Yankees over the years (4-9, 5.24 ERA). He got off to a shaky start by giving up a leadoff double to Brett Gardner and a walk to Robinson Cano. Two infield outs pushed across a run. An inning later, the Yanks got the first two batters on again when Vernon Wells reached on an error by shortstop Brendan Ryan and Ichiro Suzuki singled.

Wells was caught off base when Reid Brignac failed to drop down a sacrifice bunt. Bonderman came back to strike out Brignac and get Chris Stewart on a flyout. The Yankees got only one more hit off Bonderman, a one-out single by Brignac in the fifth, as he retired 17 of 18 batters before departing after the sixth inning.

Bonderman, once a fireballer, no longer throws as hard, but he kept the ball out of the middle of the plate and had the Yankees off balance most of the night. It was a major improvement over his first start June 2 for Seattle when Bonderman allowed seven earned runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings in a 10-0 loss to the Twins at Minneapolis. With his strong effort against the Yankees, Bonderman lowered his ERA from 13.50 to 6.75.

It was a trade involving the Yankees that helped get Bonderman’s major-league career started. A first-round draft pick of the Athletics in 2001, Bonderman was part of a three-team, seven-player deal in which the Yankees acquired Jeff Weaver from the Tigers, who got Bonderman from the A’s, who got Ted Lilly from the Yanks.

Detroit was a last-place club at that time, which sped Bonderman’s rise to the majors by 2003. He was part of a corps of young pitchers who changed the fortunes of the Tigers, who reached the World Series in 2006. Elbow and chest problems eventually derailed a career that he is trying hard to revise. Friday night’s performance was a good start.

It was not a good start for Hiroki Kuroda, who is now winless in four starts since May 22 in which he is 0-3 with a no-decision and a 5.23 ERA. That stretch includes seven shutout innings May 28 against the Mets at Citi Field in a game lost by Mariano Rivera in his only blown save of the season.

For three consecutive innings, Kuroda allowed a two-out double. He stranded the runners the first two times but was not as fortunate the third time. After Mike Morse doubled over the fence in center field, Kuroda walked the next two batters to load the bases. The second walk was a killer since it was to catcher Kelly Shoppach, a strikeout machine (43 Ks in 98 at-bats).

Ryan, the 9-hole hitter batting .218, lined a single to right field that put the Mariners ahead, 2-1. A grounder up the middle by Endy Chavez struck the second base bag for a single that reloaded the bases. Kuroda got a pitch up to another struggling hitter, Jason Bay (.224), who rapped it into left-center for a two-run single and a 4-1 Seattle lead.

Just as Thursday night came down to one inning as the Yankees scored all six runs of their 6-1 victory in the third, so, too, did Friday night for the Mariners with all their runs in the fourth.

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