Ibanez homers ignite Mariners
NEW YORK – Raul Ibanez was more than happy to turn those welcome back calls of “Ra-uuul!” into a good old Bronx cheer.
Ibanez again treated Yankee Stadium as his personal playground, hitting a grand slam and two-run homer Wednesday night to help the Seattle Mariners rout New York 12-2.
“I can’t tell that much of a difference even though when you hear it, depending on how you’re doing, you know,” Ibanez said with a sly smile.
Ibanez’s slam came during a seven-run first inning. Yankees backup shortstop Alberto Gonzalez got the final out in the ninth inning in his first professional pitching appearance.
Every Seattle starter had at least one of its season-high 16 hits and Jesus Montero was the only starter who failed to score a run in the Mariners’ best output this year.
The Mariners chased Phil Hughes after he got only two outs in the first. Trying to preserve his bullpen, Yankees manager Joe Girardi had Brett Marshall throw 108 pitches in his big league debut, then brought in Gonzalez.
“We need one out,” Girardi said. “It’s not something I want to do, but for me to bring in another pitcher. I think it doesn’t make a lot of sense there.”
Ibanez has connected three times in the first two games of his return to the ballpark in which – last season at 40 years old – he electrified crowds in late September and October with several key homers in the Yankees’ run to the A.L. Championship Series.
This time, the cheers were replaced by boos for Hughes (2-3) when Ibanez connected for his 11th career slam. Ibanez homered again in the fifth inning off Marshall.
“I said silliness happens here. There’s also something that happens here with Raul,” teammate Brendan Ryan said. “It’s awesome.”
Ibanez thinks it’s a coincidence that he had another special performance here. He says it’s not Yankee Stadium; his swing has been improving the past week or so. Ibanez raised his average that was .158 at the end of April to .224 after his 2 for 5 night.
Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse and Michael Saunders each drove in a run in the highest-scoring first inning at the stadium that opened in 2009.
Kyle Seager added a three-run shot off Marshall in the sixth.
“He saved the bullpen is what he did for us,” Girardi said of Marshall’s 5 2/3 innings. “That’s not easy being a rookie, first time out there, and being asked to do that.”
The first inning outburst made it easy for Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (5-1), who came in with a 1.74 ERA. He gave up solo homers to Vernon Wells – his 10th – and Chris Stewart.
Iwakuma gave up a season-high eight hits and two runs without walking a batter for the second straight start. Iwakuma struck out four.