However, if the Yankees can keep the game close against Seattle's Hisashi Iwakuma on Wednesday night, they might feel good about their chances considering how dominant their bullpen has been.
Iwakuma (4-1, 1.74 ERA) is among the major league leaders in ERA and is holding opposing batters to a .167 average to rank third. He has compiled 33 strikeouts in his last 25 innings. The right-hander won a second straight start Friday, surrendering four hits and two runs while striking out nine in a 6-3 win over Oakland.
"He repeats. He's so consistent with his delivery, his arm action, his arm slot, release point, it's tough to see what is coming out," manager Eric Wedge said. "That's what you have to do. If you're going to be a solid starting pitcher up here, you've got to do that."
Iwakuma is taking the mound one night after former Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez struck out eight in six innings, leaving with a 3-1 lead due to a minor back problem. New York (25-14) rallied to win 4-3.
At least one Seattle teammate, third baseman Kyle Seager , was willing to mention the better known Hernandez and Iwakuma in the same breath.
"Those two have just been on another level," Seager said. "Everybody knows Felix, obviously, but (Iwakuma) he's been flying under the radar a little bit but he's been just as impressive. It's been pretty fun to play behind those two especially."
Almost no hitters are having fun facing New York's relief corps lately, a big reason the team has won seven of eight. Yankees relievers have thrown 24 2-3 consecutive scoreless innings, allowing 10 hits and four walks while striking out 25.
"We knew coming into the season that that was going to be one of our stronger points on the team, and these guys haven't disappointed," CC Sabathia told the Yankees' official website about the bullpen. "They've come out every time out and given us a chance to win and shut down games when we needed to. It's exciting."
Rivera posted his fifth save in seven days Tuesday, surrendering three hits and no runs in that span. He tops the majors with 16 saves and has yet to blow an opportunity. Robertson hasn't given up a run or a hit in 5 2-3 innings this month.
That combination leaves Seattle (18-21) likely looking for a big night against Yankees scheduled starter Phil Hughes (2-2, 4.43).
However, New York has won his last four starts, and Hughes has won back-to-back outings after going winless through his first five. Six days after throwing eight scoreless innings to beat Oakland, Hughes escaped with a win in Kansas City on Friday as he allowed seven hits and six runs in 5 2-3 innings of an 11-6 victory.
The right-hander was given 10 runs of support after receiving a combined 11 over his first six starts.
"Thankfully, I was able to bring my not-so-good game on a day we scored a lot of runs," said Hughes, who is 3-1 with a 1.69 ERA in his last four games against the Mariners.
Iwakuma faced the Yankees twice last year, allowing four runs in 10 innings while going 0-1.
Vernon Wells is 4 for 5 against him and enters this matchup batting .414 with three homers and nine RBIs in his last eight games.
Wells is now hitting in front of cleanup man Curtis Granderson , who was 0 for 3 on Tuesday in his season debut after breaking his forearm during spring training.
|April 23, 2013||Franklin Gutierrez||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|April 22, 2013||Franklin Gutierrez||Day-to-Day||Torn right hamstring|
|April 15, 2013||Stephen Pryor||15-Day DL||Torn right lat muscle|
|April 12, 2013||Michael Morse||Day-to-Day||Fractured finger|
|April 11, 2013||Michael Saunders||15-Day DL||Sprained right shoulder|
|April 11, 2013||Michael Saunders||15-Day DL||Sprained right shoulder|
|New York Yankees|
|May 06, 2013||Eduardo Nunez||15-Day DL||Left ribcage strain|
|May 05, 2013||Eduardo Nunez||Day-to-Day||Left game - tightness in left ribcage|
|May 03, 2013||David Robertson||Day-to-Day||Sore left hamstring|
|April 28, 2013||Kevin Youkilis||15-Day DL||Lumbar spine strain|
|April 28, 2013||Joba Chamberlain||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|April 27, 2013||Francisco Cervelli||60-Day DL||Fractured right hand|
NEW YORK (AP) -- Raul Ibanez was more than happy to turn those welcome back calls of "Ra-uuul!" into a good old Bronx cheer.
Ibanez again treated Yankee Stadium as his personal playground, hitting a grand slam and two-run homer Wednesday night to help the Seattle Mariners rout New York 12-2.
"I can't tell that much of a difference even though when you hear it, depending on how you're doing, you know," Ibanez said with a sly smile.
Ibanez's slam came during a seven-run first inning. Yankees backup shortstop Alberto Gonzalez got the final out in the ninth inning in his first professional pitching appearance.
Every Seattle starter had at least one of its season-high 16 hits and Jesus Montero was the only starter who failed to score a run in the Mariners' best output this year.
The Mariners chased Phil Hughes after he got only two outs in the first. Trying to preserve his bullpen, Yankees manager Joe Girardi had Brett Marshall throw 108 pitches in his big league debut, then brought in Gonzalez.
"We need one out," Girardi said. "It's not something I want to do, but for me to bring in another pitcher. I think it doesn't make a lot of sense there."
Ibanez has connected three times in the first two games of his return to the ballpark in which - last season at 40 years old - he electrified crowds in late September and October with several key homers in the Yankees' run to the AL championship series.
This time, the cheers were replaced by boos for Hughes (2-3) when Ibanez connected for his 11th career slam. Ibanez homered again in the fifth inning off Marshall.
"I said silliness happens here. There's also something that happens here with Raul," teammate Brendan Ryan said. "It's awesome."
Ibanez thinks it's a coincidence that he had another special performance here. He says it's not Yankee Stadium; his swing has been improving the past week or so. Ibanez raised his average that was .158 at the end of April to .224 after his 2 for 5 night.
Kendrys Morales , Michael Morse and Michael Saunders each drove in a run in the highest-scoring first inning at the stadium that opened in 2009.
Kyle Seager added a three-run shot off Marshall in the sixth.
"He saved the bullpen is what he did for us," Girardi said of Marshall's 5 2-3 innings. "That's not easy being a rookie, first time out there, and being asked to do that."
The first inning outburst made it easy for Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (5-1), who came in with a 1.74 ERA. He gave up solo homers to Vernon Wells - his 10th - and Chris Stewart .
Delivering dastardly breaking pitches with a motion that has a lengthy pause when he reaches the top of his high leg kick, Iwakuma kept the Yankees off-balance. He gave up a season-high eight hits and two runs without walking a batter for the second straight start. Iwakuma struck out four.
"Those were big gifts," Iwakuma said through a translator of the run support.
After getting Saunders to lead off the game with a fly to left field on the second pitch of the game, nothing was easy for Hughes in the shortest start of his career.
Dustin Ackley walked and Seager singled before Morales had an RBI single. Morse followed with another RBI hit before Hughes walked Justin Smoak to load the bases ahead of Ibanez.
Former Yankees prospect Montero singled and, after a forceout, Saunders, the 10th batter of the inning, doubled in a run to make it 7-0 and chase Hughes. The right-hander never failed to make it out of the first in his 110 previous starts.
"When I tried to go to changeup, slider, curveball, it seemed like nothing was there," Hughes said. "Nothing I could really go to to try and find a way out of it, and that's what happens."
Ibanez hit an opposite-field drive to left field in the fifth and Seager's long ball came in the sixth to make it 12-2. The Yankees bullpen remained empty, leaving it up to Marshall to pitch deep into the game.
With a chance for his first career three-homer game, Ibanez popped out foul in the sixth to David Adams, another Yankees player making his big league debut - on his 26th birthday.
Ibanez flied out in the eighth. He has 17 career mulithomer games. His previous came in the Bronx against Oakland on Sept. 22 for the Yankees against Oakland.
Gonzalez, acquired last week from the Chicago Cubs , moved from shortstop to the mound with two outs in the ninth and runners on first and third. He retired Robert Andino on a routine flyball.
NOTES: Adams got his first career hit in the sixth. ... Mariners manager Eric Wedge said LHP Felix Hernandez was "pretty sore this morning" but the ace should be fine after tweaking his back Tuesday night. Wedge said he doesn't think there will be any alteration of his routine between starts. ... Seattle OF Franklin Gutierrez (strained right hamstring) ran Tuesday and could begin a rehab assignment Thursday or Friday. ... The Yankees designated 3B Chris Nelson for assignment.