Raul Ibañez drives in three runs as Yankees beat Mariners,6-2
Joe Girardi spent more time explaining Sunday's lineup than he wanted in his morning briefing with reporters. Of particular interest was Curtis Granderson's new home atop the Yankees' batting order, one that has been adjusted recently in Alex Rodriguez's absence.
But for all the analytical thought Girardi puts into making out his lineup, there are scenarios even he can't visualize, and a few of those unfolded in his team's 6-2 win over Seattle.
What Raul Ibañez did from the No. 6 spot was more predictable. Ibañez hit his third homer in eight games (15th overall) and smacked a two-out, two-run single to left-center off lefthander Oliver Perez in the sixth to help the Yankees rebound from a 1-0 loss to Felix Hernandez in which they had only two hits.
"He's had a knack for it in his career," Girardi said after Ibañez battled back from 1-and-2 to put the Yankees ahead 6-1. "Raul's one of those guys that never tries to do too much and can relax in those situations. That's why he comes through a lot."
Ibañez's fifth-inning blast cleared the bullpen in right-center and put the Yankees ahead 4-1. In the sixth, they had two on and two out when Perez, with first base open, intentionally walked Teixeira to face Ibañez.
Down 2-and-2 in the count, Ibañez took a low fastball, then had to swing defensively to foul off a nasty slider. He then punched a fastball over shortstop Munenori Kawasaki's head.
"Having those good at-bats previous to mine, that's what creates that inning," Ibañez said, "and I was able to find some grass out there. I think if we focus on having good at-bats and hitting the ball hard, good things will happen."
One of the pivotal cogs in the batting order turned out to be No. 9 hitter Stewart. The backup catcher went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk, stole a base and nudged his average up to .260.
Ichiro Suzuki got a little help in extending his hitting streak to 12 games and tying Don Slaught (1988) for the longest by a player to begin his Yankees career. In the seventh, Ichiro lifted a high pop-up to shallow centerfield, an easy out. But Michael Saunders lost the ball in the sun, and with his head shielded by both hands, the ball hit him on the left foot and Ichiro hustled into second with a double.
"I had a tough time today with the sun," Ichiro said, "so I felt for him a little bit."
With Granderson and his 130 strikeouts back in the leadoff spot for the third consecutive game and Derek Jeter hitting No. 2, Girardi was asked before the game about his thought process in putting together what looked to be an unorthodox batting order contrary to "typical" roles.
It was a straightforward question. But Girardi tends to be a tad defensive when pressed for an explanation of his motives.
"You want to explain your typical roles?" Girardi said.
The reporter replied, "A leadoff guy with a high on-base percentage?"
That kicked off a brief exchange about who that person was exactly, and when it was determined to be Robinson Cano -- he was at .371 before the game -- Girardi clicked off the names and why no one was better suited for the top spot than Granderson (Ichiro's OBP, now .287, is not what it used to be).
"If we had all of our hitters present, Granderson wouldn't lead off," Girardi said. "But with the injury to Alex, you have to make some adjustments."
A-Rod likely is out another month with a fractured hand, so Girardi will need to be creative. Jeter, who has batted first most of the year and had an RBI single Sunday, is another candidate to bat leadoff. Still, Girardi likes Granderson in that role.
"It doesn't hurt to have a home run in the first inning," he said. "It doesn't hurt to get a lead right away or get a two-run homer if he's hitting second."