NEW YORK — Reality finally caught up with the Mariners in their final two weekend games against a playoff-bound opponent.
The defending World Series champion New York Yankees laid waste to the Mariners by a 10-0 score on Sunday afternoon, continuing an onslaught that began in the first inning the prior day and never really stopped. This game was over when Robinson Cano drove a Luke French pitch over the wall in right-center field for a fifth-inning grand slam before rain halted play for 57 minutes a half-frame later.
But the bottom line to emerge from the series was clear; that no matter how much looser, or better, the Mariners may have looked during a recent winning stretch, a world of difference still exists between them and the league’s elite clubs.
“Obviously, this wasn’t a real pretty ballgame,” Mariners manager Daren Brown said. “It was a 1-0 game there for a while and then it kind of got away from us. But seven or eight walks against that lineup will get you into trouble.”
Yes, it will.
French walked five batters - one intentionally ahead of Cano’s slam - while reliever Chris Seddon issued three more in a three-run sixth inning by New York after the rain delay. A crowd of 46,778 at Yankee Stadium saw C.C. Sabathia toy with Seattle’s hitters before the delay and by the time he was lifted once the rain stopped it was too late for the Mariners to come back.
The Mariners put many of their fans through a mirage of sorts in winning each of their last four series by a 2-1 margin against many of the American League’s bottom-feeding clubs. That facade remained up for the first 91/2 innings of this series, bolstered by a Felix Hernandez shutout on Friday and two home runs in the first inning Saturday by Ichiro and Russell Branyan.
But once a pitcher other than Hernandez took the mound, the Mariners simply could not keep up.
They were outscored 19-3 after taking their early 2-0 lead on Saturday.
French did not have his command from the opening pitch onward. He used two double plays to escape early jams, then yielded a two-out homer to Austin Kearns in the fourth and the slam in the fifth.
“That was the name of the game,” French said. “That and five walks. Not enough strikes, I didn’t execute and they made me pay and it really hurt when Cano hit the homer.”
Ichiro had attempted a leaping catch at the right-field wall on a Nick Swisher blast in the fifth, only to have the ball pop out of his glove. He then bobbled it for an error in trying to pick it up, allowing Swisher to move up to second as Derek Jeter stopped at third.
With the open base, Brown elected to walk Mark Teixeira and pitch to Cano. French threw a changeup on the first pitch and saw it rocketed deep.
“Obviously, they’ve got a good lineup—there are no breaks,” French said. “But yeah, they just force you to throw good pitches and strikes.”
The game became a rout with three New York runs off Seddon in the sixth and then a Jorge Posada homer off Brian Sweeney in the eighth.
Just before the slam, in the top of the fifth, the Mariners tried to force the issue in a 1-0 game in which it was clear they’d be hard-pressed to score at all off Sabathia. After a leadoff double, Franklin Gutierrez blew threw the stop sign of third-base coach Lee Tinsley on a single to right and was thrown out by Swisher.
“He saw it,” Tinsley said of the sign to halt at third. “He said he thought he got a good enough jump to score.”
Tinsley had no problem with the decision, nor did Brown. Replays actually showed Gutierrez should have been called safe because catcher Posada tagged him with his glove and not the hand he had the ball in.
But it was likely a moot point in any event.
“We just put ourselves, with the free bases, in a position where we’ve got to make pitches,” Brown said. “And we just didn’t do it today.”