Bronx, NY (Sports Network) – Russell Branyan supplied the power, belting two home runs, and Felix Hernandez resumed his dominance of the Yankees, as Seattle blanked New York, 6-0, in the opener of a three-game series.
Branyan hit a three-run blast off New York starting pitcher A.J. Burnett (9-11) in the first inning and added a solo smash in the sixth, plenty of support for Hernandez (9-10), who came into Friday’s contest having notched three consecutive complete-game wins against the Yankees.
Although he didn’t go the distance, Hernandez managed to limit New York to four hits over eight solid innings, finishing with three walks and 11 strikeouts. The right-hander has now held the Yankees to three runs in his last four outings versus the club.
Burnett allowed six runs on a season-high 12 hits in seven full frames.
New York began the day with a one-game lead over Tampa Bay in the American League East standings. The Rays play in Oakland later Friday.
Alex Rodriguez returned to the Yankees’ lineup, but was pulled for a pinch- hitter after just one at-bat due to a lingering injury. Rodriguez hadn’t played in the last three games because of a strained left calf. He started as the designated hitter, and grounded out to third base to lead off the second inning before exiting with tightness in the calf. Austin Kearns batted for Rodriguez in the fourth and struck out.
Rodriguez’s departure occurred with New York trailing by five runs.
The Mariners jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning on Branyan’s shot to right-center field. Ichiro Suzuki led off the game with a single and Chone Figgins followed with a walk, setting the stage for Branyan’s power display.
Seattle picked up another run in the third. Franklin Gutierrez stroked a two- out single, stole second and came home on a Casey Kotchman base hit.
Back-to-back singles by Matt Tuiasosopo and Josh Wilson put runners on the corners to begin the fourth for Seattle. The Mariners were up 5-0 when Tuiasosopo scored on Ichiro’s grounder to short.
Hernandez ran into trouble in the fifth, but fanned both Ramiro Pena and Brett Gardner to escape a bases-loaded jam.
Garrett Olson pitched a spotless ninth for the Mariners…Branyan has 18 home runs this season…Seattle third baseman Jose Lopez went 0-for-4 to snap a 10-game hitting streak…The Mariners are now 7-3 under interim manager Daren Brown.
New York regained sole possession of first place in the American League East on Thursday, when Robinson Cano's two-run homer capped a nine-run sixth inning in the Yankees' 11-5 win over the Detroit Tigers in the finale of a four-game set.
Cano finished the game 3-for-5 with three RBI and three runs scored, while Austin Kearns and Derek Jetereach drove in two runs for the Yankees, who took the final three games of the set after dropping Monday's opener. Phil Hughes (15-5) got the win after he was charged with two runs on four hits with six strikeouts over six innings of work.
"He looked great out there today," said Yankees catcher Jorge Posada about Hughes afterward. "His location got better and better as the game went on. Pitching is important, and the way the guys have been pitching lately it's been huge for us."
The win, coupled with Tampa Bay's loss in Oakland last night, moved the Yankees a game in front of the Rays in the division.
Holding that spot may prove to be difficult this evening, as New York will be facing right-hander Felix Hernandez, who has already beaten the Yankees twice this season while pitching to a 0.50 earned run average in those outings.
Hernandez, hamstrung by the lowest run support in the American League at 3.24 per game, has pitched far better than his 8-10 record may indicate. He is just 1-4 over his last five starts, but has pitched to a 2.04 ERA in that span and his Mariners crossing the plate a total of four times over those outings.
He gave up six unearned runs to get the loss Sunday in Cleveland, as his ERA on the year fell to 2.62.
For his career, Hernandez is 4-3 with a 3.16 ERA in seven starts against the Yankees.
New York will counter with right-hander A.J. Burnett, who is 0-2 in his last three starts. Burnett suffered a hard-luck loss on Sunday in Kansas City, where he surrendered a run and four hits in eight innings of his team's 1-0 loss. The defeat dropped him to 9-10 on the year to go along with a 4.66 ERA.
"I think he found his command," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Burnett. "He was able to make a lot of pitches [Sunday] -- throw his fastball when he wanted, his curveball when he wanted, expand with his curveball when he needed to and make some hitters uncomfortable. He did everything he needed to do."
Burnett is 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA in five starts against the Mariners .
He will be facing a Seattle team which has won four of its last six games after taking the final two tests of their three-game set with the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards earlier in the week. The club is now 6-3 under interim manager Daren Brown.
At 48-73, though, the Mariners still find themselves in the cellar of the American League West, 19 1/2 games back of the Texas Rangers.
New York has won four of its seven previous matchups with Seattle this season.