Raul Ibanez provides a nice veteran presence in the middle of the Mariners’ order. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports
The Mariners defeated the Yankees 12-2 Wednesday behind a massive surge of offense that began with a seven-spot in the top half of the first. Hisashi Iwakuma improved to 5-1 in the victory while Phil Hughes, who lasted just 2/3 of an inning, fell to 2-3. The real story was Raul Ibanez though, as he hit his fifth and six home runs of 2013, swatting a grand slam in the first and a two-run homer in the fifth.
When the Mariners signed Ibanez in late December, most Mariner fans didn’t exactly shout with glee at their Christmas present from Jackie Z. My reaction, and what I perceived as the general consensus reaction, was “oh, that’s nice.” Not many thought Ibanez would make a significant impact for the Mariners in 2013.
Now, Raul has played in only 22 games, still doesn’t hit lefties well and can’t play a competent left field. However, in flashes, he has provided the Mariners with the necessary pop to get over the hump and win big games.
He displayed his pop in a big spot in the first inning of Wednesday’s win. With the bases loaded and the Mariners already leading 2-0, the Mariners could not afford to take their collective foot off the gas and let the Yankees off the hook. Ibanez, a 40-year old 18-year veteran, knew that. He capitalized on a Hughes hanging breaking ball and crushed it into the Yankees bullpen to put the game out of doubt before it really even got started.
The Mariners have certainly improved offensively in 2013. Having real, major league, middle-of-the-order hitters like Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse has helped them immensely. But the killer instinct it takes to clear the bases when the game is there to be put away still eludes the Mariners sometimes. It did on Tuesday, when they failed to knock insurance runs across up 3-1 with first and third in the top of the seventh and lost the game in the next inning.
But in a huge spot, with a chance to bury one of the best teams in the American League before Iwakuma even took the mound, Ibanez demolished one to bring out the rye bread and mustard. It was grand salami time.
Other news and notes from Wednesday’s win:
- Kyle Seager pounded a pitch from Yankees reliever Brett Marshall in the sixth inning for a three-run homer to right-centerfield. It was Seager’s fifth jack of the season, and he may have locked down the third spot in the order for a few more weeks.
- Speaking of Marshall, he made his major league debut Wednesday, and manager Joe Girardi didn’t make it easy on the rookie. Marshall entered in the fourth inning and racked up 5.2 innings pitched and a whopping 108 pitches. He threw 56 strikes and 56 balls and allowed five runs, nine hits and five walks while saving the rest of the Yankees bullpen for more meaningful appearances.
- So committed to preserving his bullpen was Girardi, that when Marshall made it clear he was tapped out in the ninth, Girardi moved shortstop Alberto Gonzalez to pitcher. Gonzalez got the one out he needed, inducing a pop out from Robert Andino. Andino apparently can’t even hit position players.
The Mariners and Yankees play the rubber match of the series at 4:05 PT Thursday. Aaron Harang takes the mound for the Mariners against Andy Pettite. Harang will have to hope the bats come back and support him Thursday for the Mariners to take two of three in the Bronx.