Mariners complete sweep behind rookie lefty
If the Yankees thought they were catching a break Thursday night by not having to face Felix Hernandez they were sadly mistaken. Mariners rookie Roenis Elias gave them all they could handle.
Hernandez had been scheduled to start Thursday night, but with the rainout Wednesday night Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon chose to keep his rotation on schedule and went ahead and started Elias, 25, a lefthander who defected to Mexico from Cuba three years ago.
“We knew the kid had good stuff,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Elias. “Our reports showed he is something special.”
They got visual evidence of that Thursday night. Elias mixed a fastball clocked in the mid-90s with a hard-breaking curve and a knee-bracing changeup.
Hiroki Kuroda, who lost his second straight start, had a decent outing but had trouble finishing off hitters in the early going. Robinson Cano doubled in a run in the first inning, but Kuroda got out of further trouble thanks to center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who made a diving catch to rob Kyle Seager of a potential, run-scoring, extra-base hit.
Watching Ellsbury reminded me of a conversation I had at dinner a couple of night ago with YES voice Michael Kay, who said that he appreciates Ellsbury a lot more now that he is watching him on an every-day basis. I agreed. Some players can get overlooked, but if you see them every day you become more aware of how much they bring to a club on a daily basis. I used to view Tino Martinez that way years ago.
Ellsbury kept it up in the first inning by driving a 2-1 pitch to right field for his first home run with the Yankees. What happened next was a harbinger of what was to come from Elias, who then struck out Derek Jeter, Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano.
Elias continued to mow down the Yankees and finished with 10 strikeouts and only two walks through seven innings. The only other run he allowed was not earned due to an error by Cano, who lost an easy out by flipping the ball to unsuspecting shortstop Brad Miller. That extended the sixth inning in which Brian McCann singled in a run.
The Yankees also gave the Mariners a gift run in the third because of an error by Jeter. Cano got his second RBI with a fielder’s choice in the third. Kuroda couldn’t shut the door in the fourth when the Mariners went ahead to stay on an RBI single by Miller and a run-scoring double by Michael Saunders.
Seattle had only one hit over the next five innings as Kuroda found his groove albeit a bit late and the Yankees got excellent relief from Matt Thornton, Adam Warren and Shawn Kelley. The Yankees’ offense ran into the same type of pitching as well and could not avoid suffering a sweep in the abbreviated, two-game series.