In three previous starts at the new Yankee Stadium, Seattle righthander Felix Hernandez had been little short of phenomenal, recording three wins with a 0.38 ERA, best of any visiting pitcher. But the Yankees exacted a measure of revenge Friday night, battering him for 11 hits, including a three-run homer by Raul Ibañez with two outs in the sixth, and beating Seattle, 6-2.
Although Ibañez had the big blow, Robinson Cano was unstoppable, going 4-for-4 with three singles and a double. Cano extended his hitting streak to nine games, and in the past five, he has gone 12-for-20 to lift his average from .255 to .308.
Pinch hitter Andruw Jones added a two-run homer off Steve Delabar in the eighth as the Yankees totaled 14 hits.
Hiroki Kuroda (3-4) got the better of Hernandez (3-2), pitching seven innings and allowing six hits, including home runs by Dustin Ackley and former Yankee Jesus Montero. Although it wasn't a save situation, closer David Robertson came on with one out and a man on first in the ninth to get the final two outs.
The victory against Hernandez came on the heels of a win over Tampa Bay's David Price, a good indication the Yankees' lineup is heating up along with the weather. Beating Hernandez, Ibañez said, "was definitely satisfying. He's one of the elite pitchers in the game."
Kuroda allowed a home run by Ackley on the third pitch of the game. But the Yankees tied the score in the bottom of the first on Cano's RBI single.
Kuroda worried in warmups that he didn't have a good sinker, but he said catcher Russell Martin convinced him otherwise. "Russell said I had really good movement," Kuroda said. "I was able to regroup."
Speaking of the matchup with Hernandez, Kuroda added, "He's a great pitcher. I thought it would be a close game. I had to make sure I stayed tough."
In the next four innings, the game settled into something of a pitchers' duel. Hernandez, who entered the game with a 1.89 ERA, managed to keep the Yankees off the board in the fourth when Alex Rodriguez was thrown out at home by leftfielder Mike Carp on a single by Mark Teixeira with two on and none out. Kuroda escaped a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the fifth, striking out Brendan Ryan and getting Ichiro Suzuki to hit into a forceout at third in only the second matchup ever between the Japanese stars.
For a moment in the sixth, it looked as if Kuroda might be the victim of an ironic story line when former Yankees top prospect Montero made a triumphant return to the Stadium with a home run to rightfield for a 2-1 lead. Montero, of course, was part of an offseason deal with Seattle for pitcher Michael Pineda, who recently had shoulder surgery.
But Kuroda got out of that inning without further damage and Ibañez rendered Montero a footnote with his three-run blast to right on a first-pitch fastball from Hernandez. With runners on first and third and one out, Nick Swisher took a called third strike, but Ibanez picked him up and put the Yankees ahead 4-2.
Former Mariner Ibañez knows Hernandez well, but he had only three at-bats against him before Friday. "A couple guys asked me, 'What's he like?' " he said. "I said, 'I have no idea. I was in the outfield.' "
After reaching on a forceout in his first at-bat and striking out in his second, Ibañez said hitting coach Kevin Long told him not to rush his swing. At the same time, he was ready for the first pitch when it was to his liking.
"Sometimes the first pitch is the best one he'll throw you, and then he gets nasty," Ibañez said. "It was the kind of mind-set we all had. He's a great pitcher, so whatever you see that looks good, jump on it."
Notes & quotes: David Phelps warmed up in the eighth, indicating he's out of the rotation to make room for Andy Pettitte.
Brett Gardner aggravated the strained muscle in his right elbow during his rehab stint and has been ordered not to pick up a bat for 10 days. An MRI showed the bone bruise in the same arm is almost healed. "When I straighten my arm, that's when it bothers me," Gardner said. "If I swing and miss and my front [right] arm is extended, that's when it bothers me . . . Hopefully, in a week and a half, I'll be 100 percent and I won't look back." . . . Rafael Soriano was not available Friday after pitching three straight days. Girardi said Robertson remains the closer when both are available . . . Eric Chavez returned as DH after passing his concussion test.