From Opening Day, with so many Yankee regulars incapacitated, Joe Girardi's lineups have appeared something akin to distracted scribbling in the margins. And, routinely, those Yankee doodles have been dandy, with so many unlikely additions -- Hafner, Overbay, Wells, Youkilis -- providing fireworks.
But Wednesday night, when the ad hoc Yankees deviated from the surprising 2013 plot that has them in first place, pounded by the Seattle Mariners, 12-2, at the Stadium, the organizational flow chart got a bit weird.
For the last Seattle out, Girardi had catcher Chris Stewart playing first base, outfielder Vernon Wells playing second and shortstop Alberto Gonzalez pitching. All because starter Phil Hughes seemed so overwhelmed by the situation that Girardi's intent was to not tire out his bullpen in the process.
Hughes put the Yankees (2-3) in an immediate seven-run hole and lasted only two-thirds of an inning. He allowed six hits, including Raul Ibañez's grand slam.
"Just nothing going right," Hughes said. "It's going to be tough sleeping for a couple of nights, that's for sure. Probably the worst start of my career. I have to just try to forget about this one as quick as I can."
Ibañez, the 40-year-old pro who enjoyed some dramatic long-ball moments during his one season as a Yankee last year, also struck a two-run fifth-inning homer against reliever Brett Marshall, forced into his major league debut when his sole purpose was "to save our bullpen," Girardi said, by enduring 52/3 innings (five runs, nine hits, five walks).
Kyle Seager also cracked a three-run homer against Marshall in the sixth inning. "Nervous. Excitement. Dream come true," said the 23-year-old Marshall. "Started out, I couldn't feel anything. You always imagine your debut better than that, but I got through it and helped the team out. And they liked the way I battled."
Next to Seattle's 16-hit show of offensive force, Yankees solo homers by Wells, in the first inning, and Stewart, in the fifth, were decidedly paltry. Seattle's Hisashi Iwakuma (5-1) scattered eight hits through seven innings, did not give up a walk and struck out four.
The whole show was nothing like recent events for the 25-15 Yankees, who had won seven of their previous eight and, except for Hughes' rocky 11-6 victory over Kansas City six days ago, had allowed an average of 1.8 runs per game.
Hughes, whose career has been marked by inconsistency, left the Yankees with "just a little too much to come back from," Stewart said. And left Girardi arguing in Hughes' defense that "it's a hard game. People sometimes think it seems like you can have a Nintendo control in your hand and you can control things. It's not that simple."
Certainly not Wednesday night for Hughes.
After a leadoff flyout by Michael Saunders, Dustin Ackley walked, Seager singled, Kendrys Morales singled (Saunders scored), Michael Morse singled (Seager scored), Justin Smoak walked, Ibañez cleared the bases by putting the ball over the centerfield wall, Jesus Montero singled, Brendan Ryan reached first on a force play, and Saunders doubled (Ryan scored).
And, by the time they got to the ninth, with runners on the corners for Seattle and two outs, Girardi went with his drastic shuffle, telling Steward, "Don't get hurt" at first and asking Gonzalez to prevent the need to dig into the bullpen.
Gonzalez retired Robert Andino on a popup.