SEATTLE — The Gary Sanchez Show rolled along Monday night.
Starlin Castro’s performance earned a curtain call as well.
But Yankees pitching was not up to the bright lights of the first game of an important series, as a pair of three-run homers and a solo shot gave the Mariners a 7-5 victory in front of 24,384 at Safeco Field.
The loss wasted a three-hit, two-homer night by Sanchez and two home runs from Castro and put the Yankees (63-61) further back in the AL wild-card chase, with the Mariners (67-57) one of the teams they’re chasing. The Yankees are five games behind the Orioles, who currently own the second wild card.
Seattle’s Kyle Seager hit the first three-run homer on a 3-and-0 pitch from Michael Pineda in the fourth inning, giving the Mariners a 3-2 lead. Said Pineda, “I’m working behind, I threw him fastball middle, and he got it.”
Then, after a three-run top of the sixth that featured a two-run homer by Sanchez and a solo shot by Castro that put the Yankees ahead 5-3, losing pitcher Anthony Swarzak served up a three-run blast by Mike Zunino in the bottom half that gave Seattle a 6-5 lead. The homer was the 10th off Swarzak in 28 innings.
Said Swarzak, “I was trying to execute a slider and I was having a difficult time doing that the whole at-bat, and he got me when it counted. And the worst part about it is we need every game right now. We have to win every game, especially when guys put up an offensive showing like that. This one’s tough.”
Nelson Cruz’s 32nd homer, a broken-bat blast off Kirby Yates in the eighth, made it 7-5.
The Yankees threatened in the ninth, putting runners on second and third with one out against Edwin Diaz, but pinch hitter Mark Teixeira popped up to shallow leftfield and Brett Gardner grounded out to end it.
Sanchez added to the already impressive numbers he brought into the night — a .524/.600/1.190 slash line in his previous six games that notched him AL Player of the Week honors.
His solo homer off Mariners righthander Cody Martin in the first made it 1-0 and his two-run homer off Martin in the sixth allowed the Yankees to retake the lead at 4-3. At that point, he had hit eight homers in his last 38 at-bats in an 11-game span. He has hit the most home runs in the majors since Aug. 10, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Said Sanchez, “I feel really good out there in the box. The work I’ve been doing has been giving me good results and making me feel comfortable.”
Said Joe Girardi, “It’s been unbelievable what he’s done. The way he’s swung the bat, the way he’s played defense. The job that he’s done. Throws another guy out [Monday night]. It’s been extremely impressive.”
Castro, who homered in the second to make it 2-0, homered again in the sixth to make it 5-3.
But Pineda’s inconsistent season continued. The righthander looked terrific at times, throwing 55 of his 83 pitches for strikes, but could not make it through six innings. He was charged with five runs and seven hits in 5 1⁄3 innings.
With two on and one out in the sixth, Girardi brought in lefty Tommy Layne to face Adam Lind, who popped to second. In came Swarzak to face the righthanded-hitting Zunino, who gave the Mariners the lead for good with his blast to rightfield.
Why did Girardi pull Pineda? “He just hadn’t had great command with his fastball and we were trying to get him through six tonight. We didn’t have Adam [Warren] tonight because of his usage the last few days . . . He gives up a jam shot to Cano, and once he walked Seager, we just thought that was it.”
Given that he did not have Warren available, Girardi said his plan was to pitch Tyler Clippard for two innings and have Dellin Betances pitch the ninth.