It wasn’t for nothing that a lifelong Washington Senators fan was willing to sell his soul to the devil just to see the New York Yankees lose in “Damn Yankees.”
From the booing the Yanks received all night – and the agonized moans when the Seattle Mariners fell short time and again – it appeared many of the Safeco Field crowd of 44,272 on Saturday were willing to trade just about anything for a little devilish intervention.
No such luck.
Playing without the help of the netherworld, the Mariners squandered opportunities and were beaten in a most businesslike manner by the Yankees, 5-2.
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“They’re an awfully good team, and I think we tried to do a little too much at times and it cost us,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “We played a little out of character for us.”
The Yankees scored four unearned runs early, which had the crowd irate enough.
And occasionally, New York seemed to get a strike call or two the crowd questioned loudly.
If anything, however, it was the futility of the Senators … er, Mariners … at the plate that might have pushed some in attendance to place calls to any devil accepting offers.
“We had 10 hits and a lot of opportunities,” Wakamatsu said.
Seattle scored first on typical Mariners little ball: a Yankee error, a well-placed ground ball, a sacrifice fly – voil, a 1-0 first-inning lead.
New York got its four against rookie Luke French in the second, and the Mariners were pursuers the rest of the night. They weren’t good at it.
Two singles and a walk in the fourth inning got Seattle another run, but the Mainers left two men on base at the end of that rally. In the sixth, it was even worse – two singles and a walk loaded the bases with one out.
Reliever Dave Robertson struck out shortstop Josh-not-Jack Wilson. Then, on a 3-2 pitch that looked low, plate umpire C.B. Bucknor rang up Ryan Langerhans on a third strike that left those bases loaded.
That crowd howled, for all the good it did.
“I thought Langerhans had a great at-bat, I’ll leave it at that,” Wakamatsu said. “If he walks there, we get a run and have Ichiro at the plate – it’s a different game.”
Again in the seventh, the Mariners seemed on the brink of a breakthrough – and again they tripped themselves up.
Ichiro singled and with one out, Jose Lopez singled him to second base. Yankee reliever Phil Coke struck out Ken Griffey Jr. to get the inning to Russell Branyan, the team leader in home runs and RBI.
With Branyan taking a pitch, Ichiro tried to steal third base and was out. By a lot.
“Again, a case of trying to do a little too much,” Wakamatsu said.
French, the 23-year-old left-hander taken from Detroit in the Jarrod Washburn deal, was making just his eighth big-league start and third with Seattle. He had beaten Kansas City for both of his career victories and faced the Yankees in July as a member of the Tigers.
That time, in five innings, French gave up one earned run and got no decision.
This time, in six innings, he didn’t allow an earned run – and lost.
There were times he wobbled, throwing far too many pitches and working deep into counts too often, but the only time the Yankees broke through against him – in a mistake-marred second inning – each of the four runs they scored was unearned.
That’s because, with one out and a man on, Melky Cabrera lifted a lazy fly ball that both Franklin Gutierrez and Ichiro Suzuki called. Ichiro peeled off at the last moment, and Gutierrez dropped the ball for an error.
A single and sacrifice fly got two runs home, and French then threw an imminently hittable pitch that Nick Swisher hit out down the left-field line – a two-run home run that put New York ahead, 4-1.
That was that.
“We’ve played solid defense most of the year, but in the last two games we put pressure on ourselves and it cost us,” Wakamatsu said. “Those four unearned runs shook French, but he gathered himself.”
French settled in, and while he had only one 1-2-3 inning all night, he got through six innings against the Yankees, throwing 107 pitches and allowing only those unearned runs.
Given the fact that the Mariners have other starting pitchers on the near horizon – Brandon Morrow and perhaps Carlos Silva – the spots in the rotation now held by French, Ian Snell and Doug Fister are the most vulnerable.
While he didn’t win this one, French may have shown enough to put the pressure on Snell and Fister.
“He shut them out the last four innings and I was most pleased with the last two innings, where he seemed to finally turn the ball loose,” Wakamatsu said.
After French, Sean White pitched well and David Aardsma, trying to get work in a non-save situation, gave up Derek Jeter’s opposite-field home run in the ninth.
It was Seattle’s third loss in three nights to New York, with a fourth game to be played this afternoon.