Aaron Boone followed the expected formula when he used J.A. Happ for five innings-plus and called on his power pen for the final 12 outs in a 3-1 victory over the Mariners Thursday night at the Stadium. Happ and four relievers held Seattle to two hits.
What wasn’t the expected formula — but has been part of the Yankees’ magical run this season — was the identity of the batters who drove in the runs.
First, there was Cameron Maybin, who gave Happ a 1-0 lead with a two-out RBI double in the second inning. The Yankees acquired Maybin April 25 from the Indians’ Triple-A club and he is batting .323 as a fill-in for all of their injured outfielders.
Then there was Gio Urshela, who entered as a defensive replacement in the seventh. Urshela, who left Wednesday’s game after fouling a pitch off his left knee, drilled a bases-loaded, two-out, two-run single in the eighth to make it 3-0.
“Big two-out hit for us,” Boone said. “Two-strike hit, too.”
Seattle manager Scott Servais was apparently not impressed with Urshela’s .346 average when he ordered reliever Connor Sadzeck to walk Gleyber Torres to load the bases. That decision backfired as the Yankees took three of four in the series.
“What more can you say?” Boone said. “He’s been a really good player for us and has come up big a lot of times for us and another time tonight.”
On Wednesday night, the Yankees were no-hit by Yusei Kikuchi for 5 1/3 innings in a 10-1 Mariners victory. Happ (2-3) nearly matched that, keeping the Mariners hitless until Tom Murphy grounded a two-out single to left in the fifth.
“He’s been fighting hard,” Boone said. “Really grinding.”
But Happ’s pitch count was higher than you’d think. He walked two in the first and hit a batter in the third. He struck out seven, all before Murphy’s hit. That takes pitches, and Happ was at 94 after he walked Dylan Moore on a close 3-and-2 pitch to open the sixth.
Moore, oddly, squared to bunt on the 3-and-2 pitch. Ed Hickox called it a ball even though it may have ticked the top of the strike zone. Happ was not pleased and then he was back in the dugout as Boone pounced, calling on Adam Ottavino against the heart of the order to begin a parade of relievers.
“That was pretty good and had those guys pretty rested up going into this game,” Boone said. “Obviously, liked Otto in that righthanded lane there.”
Ottavino struck out Mitch Haniger, but Moore stole second and moved to third when Gary Sanchez threw the ball into centerfield for his sixth error.
Edwin Encarnacion walked to put runners on the corners. Domingo Santana followed with a grounder to Torres, who raced to second and threw to first to complete the inning-ending 6-6-3 double play.
Tommy Kahnle threw a perfect seventh with one strikeout. Zack Britton threw a perfect eighth with one strikeout.
In the ninth, with a three-run cushion, Aroldis Chapman retired the first two Mariners before allowing a home run to Santana to make it 3-1. Chapman got Ryon Healy to ground to second for his eighth save.
“Tommy was really efficient,” Boone said. “Zack was really good. I thought Chappy threw the ball great. Even though he gave up the homer, I thought that was maybe about as good as he’s been.”
The Yankees finished the seven-game homestand with five wins. They begin a three-game series and road trip on Friday at Tampa Bay, the first-place team in the AL East, before returning home Monday to begin a six-game homestand against Baltimore, the last-place team in the division.
The Rays (23-13) lead the Yankees by 1 1/2 games and the defending world champion Red Sox by 4 1/2.