NEW YORK – With two outs in the ninth, the tying run on third and the opponent’s best hitter up, Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan looked over at Dustin Ackley and offered some on-field game analysis.
“I looked at Ack and I was like ‘This is awesome, this is truly awesome! This is good baseball here’,” Ryan said.
Indeed, this 3-2 win over the New York Yankees in a Thursday night thriller might go down as one of the bigger victories notched by the Mariners in years. It not only resulted in their first series win at Yankee Stadium since 2010, but came on a night they deployed emergency starter Hector Noesi and then nearly emptied their bullpen to cling to a slim lead.
Michael Morse had given the Mariners a two-run cushion in the sixth inning with a solo home run to dead center off reliever Shawn Kelley. But the Yankees got one back in the seventh on an infield single by Robinson Cano in which Ryan bounced a throw wide of first that Kendrys Morales had to dive for to keep the tying run from scoring.
Ryan called the Morales play “the difference in the game’’ on a night every late pitch seemed to keep the crowd of 35,392 on the edge of their seats. And when Tom Wilhelmsen finally got Cano to ground out with the tying run on third in the ninth, the closer let out a fist-pump of emotion as his boisterous teammates poured on to the field to celebrate.
“Every guy was in it,’’ Ryan said. “On the bench and on the field. That was playoff stuff right there. Everybody was ready to make a defensive play, and our bullpen was coming in and executing pitches. That’s as fun as it gets there at the end with Tommy (Wilhelmsen) on the mound.’’
The bullpen as a whole, starting with the 41/3 innings by long reliever Noesi in an emergency start for ailing Aaron Harang, delivered a big-stage performance they might not surpass this season.
Whether it was Oliver Perez replacing Noesi and snuffing a one-out jam with runners at the corners in the fifth, or Carter Capps pitching out of a breathtaking seventh and eighth with the tying run in scoring position, the bullpen had answers for whatever the Yankees threw their way.
Wilhelmsen refused to yield in the ninth once Brett Gardner reached on a one-out single, then stole second and third. A supercharged Wilhelmsen admitted postgame he was only focused on the hitters and didn’t really care what Gardner was doing.
Once Gardner reached third with one out, Wilhelmsen needed a strikeout and got it against Jayson Nix before the Cano ground out ended the game.
“There was no way we were going to lose that game,’’ Wilhelmsen said. “We’d just got momentum and I certainly wasn’t going to be the guy to do it. Emotions were high, and no matter what side you’re on, that’s a baseball game.’’
Noesi had given up an unearned run in the second inning after his throwing error, allowing the Yankees to tie it at 1-1.
Ryan had just missed breaking things open in the top of the inning when his sinking line drive was caught a half-inch off the grass by Ichiro in right field with runners on second and third.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge voiced his displeasure over the ruling on the catch from the dugout between innings. First-base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt ejected Wedge, who nonetheless managed from his office the rest of the night.by relaying instructions to bench coach Robby Thompson through a hustling team employee.
Ryan gave the Mariners the lead for good with a bases-loaded, infield single in the fourth. And the bullpen held it once Noesi gave way to Perez with runners at the corners and one out in the fifth.
Perez has been on a weeklong strikeout roll and began the escape by fanning Gardner for the second out. Nix popped out to end the inning.
“I think we’re doing a pretty good job,’’ Perez, who notched two more strikeouts in the sixth and collected the win, said of the bullpen.
Perez left with two on in that sixth, but Yoervis Medina got a fielder’s-choice grounder to end the threat.
Capps came on in the seventh and get Vernon Wells to pop out with a run already in and the tying run at third.
In the eighth, Capps saw Curtis Granderson hit a single and then steal second with one out. But Capps got David Adams to pop out and then struck out Ichiro.
“When you’re facing these guys here in their backyard and you play to win the way we did and finished it off and do what you need to do, it should be a great lift for them,’’ Wedge said of his players.