Fresh off of winning a series against the Angels, the Yankees moved up the coast for a three game set against the Seattle Mariners. The Yankees were still slightly in discussions for the playoffs as they were 4.0 games back of the second wild card.
Big blows wasted
Michael Pineda returned to Seattle to make the start in the series opener. He pitched fairly well early on, but ran into trouble in the fourth. With two on and a 3-2 count on Kyle Seager, the big right-hander served one up and Seager blasted it out for a 3-2 lead. Two innings later, Pineda would put two men on with one out. Tommy Layne would come in to get the second out, but Anthony Swarzak came in and promptly gave up a three-run home run to Mike Zunino. Enough already of Swarzak. 10 home runs given up in 28 innings and the guy is still being trotted out there in high leverage situations. Pineda would go 5.1 innings, giving up 7 hits and 5 runs, while striking out 6.
The Gary Sanchez Show continues to roll along. Fresh off of being named American League Player of the Week, the rookie catcher would have three more hits on Monday, including a pair of home runs. He now has 8 home runs in his first 15 games and this was his second two homer game. That’s the most home runs by a Yankee player in the first 19 games of his career. Starlin Castro would join Sanchez as bash brothers as he would also contribute two home runs, both of which were solo shots.
The two three-run homers were enough to get the job done for Seattle. The Yankees made things interesting against Edwin Diaz in the ninth, but were couldn’t get the big hit with men on second and third and one out. They were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position on the game with 5 left on base. Brett Gardner was the only other Yankee on base more than once as the Yankees would waste the big games from Sanchez and Castro in losing 7-5.
A masterful performance
For all of the recent talk about the Yankees youth movement, the middle game of this series was dominated by the elder statesman of the pitching staff. C.C. Sabathia would pitch probably his best game of the season, throwing 7 innings of 3-hit, 1-run baseball. The big lefty struck out 7 on the night. Mired in a miserable stretch where he had an ERA north of 5.00 over his last 15 starts, Sabathia located his pitches well against a pretty good hitting Mariners lineup.
Ronald Torreyes, getting the start in place of Chase Headley, would pace the Yankee offensive attack with a pair of double in his 3-hit night. An Aaron Judge sacrifice fly and Didi Gregorius RBI double would be sandwiched around a 2-run home run from Jacoby Ellsbury. Five runs would not be a breakout offensive performance, but it wouldn’t take much offense to back Sabathia.
The Yankees would even things up with a 5-1 victory to give C.C. his eighth win of the season. The youth had been carrying things of late, but the older guys got it done this night.
Tanaka time for the series win
Masahiro Tanaka and Hisashi Iwakuma would lock in a matinee battle on Wednesday to determine the series winner. Tanaka would certainly not disappoint as he would give the Yankees back-to-back dominant performances by a starter. Tanaka would spread six hits and a walk over seven innings of shutout baseball while striking out five. He would lower his season ERA to 3.11. Tanaka seemed in control the entire outing as he threw 69 of 108 pitches for strikes.
Gary Sanchez would once again be the star of the show as his first inning solo home run would give the Yankees a 1-0 lead. This one, a 420-foot monster blow on the first pitch of the at bat was his 9th in 21 games. Sanchez would add a double in the fifth and the Mariners would come to their senses and intentionally walk the rookie catcher in his last two plate appearances. Sanchez is starting to have his name listed with some Yankee record almost on a daily basis. He has 15 extra base hits as a major-leaguer and the only Yankee with more is Joe DiMaggio. He is certainly in elite company and has become a steady force in the middle of the lineup with a slash line of .389/.450/.847.
Another solid performance by the Yankees in nailing down a 5-0 win and the series victory. They were only 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position with 10 left on base, but the pitching was good enough. After Tyler Clippard allowed a pair of hits in 0.2 innings of work, Dellin Betances would get 4 outs for his 6th save of the season. One more note on the power that Sanchez has brought to the lineup this month. Before August 1, the Yankees were 22nd in the majors in home runs. They are 3rd since that date.
Six games back in the division and five back in the wildcard nearing the end of August is nothing to write home about, but this team is bringing a different level of excitement each and every day now. They do have an opportunity as the team they are chasing in the wildcard, the Baltimore Orioles, are on the schedule for six of the next nine games. Yeah, it’s a longshot, but at least they are a fun bunch to watch now.