NEW YORK – Jesus Montero walked up to the plate and lined an opposite-field home run over the right-field wall at Yankee Stadium.
It was as if he had never left.
Montero’s sixth-inning drive against Hiroki Kuroda gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead over the New York Yankees on Friday night. Unfortunately for the Mariners, Raul Ibanez’s three-run homer off Felix Hernandez in the bottom half propelled the hosts to a 6-2 win.
“I was telling myself to relax and have fun,” the Mariners’ 22-year-old catcher said. “It’s another game and you just try to catch good for Felix.”
After coming up to the Yankees and hitting four homers with 12 RBIs last September, Montero was traded to Seattle in January with right-hander Hector Noesi for pitchers Michael Pineda and Jose Campos.
Pineda, projected to be a part of New York’s rotation, got hurt in spring training and is out for the season following surgery May 1 to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Campos is on the disabled list at Charleston, S.C., with elbow inflammation.
Given a chance to play regularly with the Mariners, Montero is hitting .267 with five homers and 17 RBIs. He is tied for the A.L. rookie home run lead with Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes.
“He’s a young hitter and still learning how to hit,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He gives himself a chance up there and it looked like he hit a decent pitch there and drove it the other way. When you’re in this ballpark, you’re going to benefit from that.”
Dustin Ackley’s opposite-field homer to left on Kuroda’s third pitch put Seattle ahead, but Robinson Cano tied it in the bottom half with an RBI single – Cano had three singles and a double, and is 12 for 20 in his last five games to raise his average from .255 to .308.
Montero’s home run was typical for him. Of his home runs this season, two have been to straightaway center, one to right-center and one to right.
“I was thinking all the time, right field,” he said. “I tried to hit the ball over there every time that I go to the plate. They were making a lot of good pitches. It was a little tough, but I finally got it over there and I hit that one really good.”
Ibanez erased the lead with a drive to right off his former Seattle teammate with two outs in the sixth.
“When you’re facing an elite pitcher like him, sometimes the first pitch is the best one he’s going to throw you,” Ibanez said. “Then he gets nasty.”
Andruw Jones added the first home run by a Yankees pinch-hitter since Jorge Posada on Sept. 14, 2010, a two-run drive in the eighth off Steve Delabar.
Hernandez (3-2) allowed 11 hits – two short of his career high – and four runs in 62/3 innings, his second-shortest outing this season. He struck out seven and walked two, with his ERA rising from 1.89 to 2.29.
“I was throwing that sinker for the first pitch,” he said, before detailing the mistake that caused the homer: “That was in the middle of the plate.”
King Felix had been 3-0 at new Yankee Stadium, allowing one run in 24 innings. He weakened after Derek Jeter fouled off five pitches during a 10-pitch walk in the fifth, which started a stretch in which seven of Hernandez’s last 12 batters reached base.
Kuroda (3-4) improved to 3-1 at home, giving up two runs and six hits in seven innings.
Seattle had chances to break open the game, but the Mariners went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position and 1 for 12 with men on base.
“We had a first-and-second situation with nobody out and a bases-loaded situation with one out, and we don’t score a run,” Wedge said.
“It could’ve been the difference right there.”
Seattle has lost seven straight road games.
M’s pitcher Blake Beavan, nursing a bruised arm, will miss his start Sunday and is slated for Tuesday in Boston.
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