Jayson Nix's three-run double lifts Yankees over Mariners
SEATTLE -- The first two games of this series ended up mostly as afterthoughts.
Monday brought the pregame bombshell of the Ichiro trade, and Tuesday brought the postgame one of Alex Rodriguez landing on the disabled list.
All of it was enough to obscure the fact that a loss Wednesday would mean a 1-6 trip out West.
Jayson Nix, of all people, saved the Yankees from that indignity, ripping a one-out, three-run double in the eighth inning of a 5-2 victory over the Mariners in front of 36,071 at Safeco Field.
"Losing five games by a total of six runs, to be able to win a series I think was important going into an off day," Joe Girardi said. "Two-and-five is not what we want but we won the second series of the road trip and it'll be a happier plane flight."
The Yankees (59-39), off Thursday before starting a three-game series against the Red Sox Friday at the Stadium, lead the AL East by eight games. The Yankees had a 10-game lead when the trip began in Oakland, where they suffered a four-game sweep.
Nix, a utility man whom the Yankees are comfortable using at third, short, second and left, until Wednesday's pinch-hit double had a trip to forget. He was 0-for-7 in his limited at-bats and his failure to turn a double play Sunday in Oakland led to a run in the 5-4 loss.
"Whenever I get my chances, whenever they are, I just hope to be able to do something positive," the 29-year-old Nix said. "To be able to come through today was good."
As Wednesday's eighth inning began, the Yankees trailed 2-1. Derek Jeter, who homered in the first and finished 3-for-4, led off the inning and, for the second straight game, was hit by a pitch, this time in his lower left thigh.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge brought on lefty Lucas Luetge (1-1) to face Robinson Cano, who singled, as did Mark Teixeira to load the bases. After Curtis Granderson fouled out, Girardi sent up Nix to pinch hit for Raul Ibañez and Wedge countered by bringing in righthander Shawn Kelley.
Nix lashed a 2-and-2 pitch into the gap in left-center to clear the bases. Russell Martin's RBI single later in the inning made it 5-2.
"All I want to do is hit a sac fly," Nix said. "I didn't want to try and do too much, I just wanted to get one run in. I think that helped because I wasn't trying to do too much and I was able to put the barrel on the ball."
Nix, thinking he might be used as a pinch hitter at some point, headed to the batting cages in the seventh to start getting loose.
"That's a talent I don't think I have," said Jeter, hitting second in the lineup as Ichiro led off. "Sitting around all day and then coming up and getting a hit in a big situation. It's tough to sit around and go up there and hit. That was a big hit for us."
David Robertson struck out two batters in a dominant eighth -- "I think he's back," Girardi said of the reliever -- and Rafael Soriano notched his 26th save in 28 chances. David Phelps (2-3) earned the win with 11/3 innings of scoreless relief.
Ivan Nova, who took a no-decision, was all over the place, walking a career-worst six batters in five innings. But he didn't allow any hits after giving up two in the Mariners' two-run first.
"I didn't have any command," Nova said. "It wasn't a good day for me. But we won, that's what matters."
Ichiro: Something to prove. Ichiro, who went 1-for-5 with a caught stealing Wednesday while hitting in his familiar leadoff spot, is excited about making his home debut Friday and likely will get a rousing ovation, starting with the Bleacher Creatures' Roll Call.
"When I go to Yankee Stadium, obviously if the fans feel that way toward me, I'm grateful," said Ichiro, who was 3-for-12 in the series. "But I need to prove myself and to play to the level that the fans can enjoy. I really feel when I get there I want to show the fans what I can do."
Swisher hoping for tomorrow. Nick Swisher (hip flexor strain) said he'll do a full workout, which includes batting with hitting coach Kevin Long, at the Stadium Thursday. He thinks he'll be able to play Friday but if not, said jokingly "we'll have a fistfight" if he's not allowed to play at some point against the Red Sox.