The only sure way to stop what happened to the Yankees on Saturday is for Felix Hernandez to pitch in pinstripes. Otherwise, they can expect more of the same, especially in the Bronx.
Hernandez has been linked to the Yankees in trade conversations for what has seemed like forever. But there's a reason why he's still at the top of Seattle's rotation, and his complete-game domination in the Mariners' 1-0 victory was another tease for the AL East leaders.
The Yankees nicked Hernandez for two hits, coaxed a pair of walks and didn't put a runner in scoring position after Robinson Cano's two-out double in the first inning. They didn't get a hit after the third. Hernandez (10-5) needed only 101 pitches for his third complete game of the season and it was over in a tidy 2 hours, 32 minutes.
"Felix is always pretty tough against us," said Derek Jeter, who again batted in the No. 2 hole and went 0-for-4. "We had what, two hits off him? It's hard to win games with two hits. He knows how to pitch. It's not the first time he's done this."
Jeter is right. Hernandez improved to 4-1 with a 1.13 ERA in five career starts at the new Yankee Stadium, and this was his second shutout there. In his last 10 starts, Hernandez is 6-0 with a 1.41 ERA, and the Yankees agreed that this was the most dominant performance against them this year.
"Yeah, I would have to say so," Joe Girardi said. "We got one shot today -- that was it. Usually you get more than one. But we only got one. That's how good he was."
That shot was in the hands of Mark Teixeira, who batted with Cano at second base and two outs in the first inning. Teixeira took a first-pitch fastball for a strike, let an 88-mph changeup pass to even the count and then popped up a 93-mph fastball to second base.
Hard to believe, but that was the game from the Yankees' perspective. Hiroki Kuroda did what he could to keep pace, but the Mariners got the only run they needed in the second inning on John Jaso's leadoff double and a two-out single by Mike Carp, who smacked a 3-and-2 fastball into leftfield.
"He was phenomenal, as well," Russell Martin said of Kuroda. "Normally with this lineup, we're able to score a few runs to get the win for our starter."
The Yankees' two hits were their fewest since April 10, 2011, at Fenway Park and their fewest at home since 2010. After Cano's double, Hernandez retired 14 of 15 before walking Curtis Granderson with two outs in the sixth. The only blip was Ichiro Suzuki's single, and he was erased when Martin bounced into a double play.
Hernandez faced only 30 batters and threw only 32 balls, so that didn't make for many deep counts. After Granderson's walk in the sixth, Jeter grounded into a forceout. After Raul Ibañez walked on four pitches with two outs in the seventh, Hernandez struck out Nick Swisher with three, whiffing him on a changeup.
"He had everything," Girardi said. "Mixed in his curveball, slider, cutting his fastball, sinking his fastball -- everything. He just didn't give us anything to hit."
To put Hernandez's achievement in context, this was the first time the Yankees had suffered a 1-0 loss with two or fewer hits in the Bronx since 1978 against the Orioles. That was a two-hitter by Jim Palmer.
"I told [Hernandez] it was probably the most impressive start that I've ever seen as a manager," the Mariners' Eric Wedge said. "I mean, I've seen a lot of good and great pitchers over the years. This ballpark, that lineup, the swings and misses. The efficiency in which he did it in a 1-0 ballgame. It doesn't get any better than that."