What it means: After taking a four-game tumble in Oakland, the Yankees came to their senses in Seattle and beat up enough on veteran Kevin Millwood to put together a slump-busting win. The victory, combined with Baltimore’s loss in Cleveland, leaves New York with a seven-game advantage in the American League East, by far the biggest divisional lead in baseball.
Saving grace: The Mariners had a chance to put the hurt on the Yankees in the first inning when Alex Rodriguez threw wildly past first base with two out. But Hiroki Kuroda bailed out his third baseman by getting Kyle Seager to fly out.
Tex, as usual: Mark Teixeira has never found Millwood to be much of a mystery, judging by the career .346 average against Millwood he brought into Monday’s game. He singled and doubled, driving in a run and scoring one, in his first two at-bats against Millwood. He later doubled against him.
Ground game: Millwood is at his best when he can get hitters to pound the ball into the ground. And while the Yankees got the ball in the air a few times in the fourth inning in a three-run rally, they mostly hit the ball into the ground, one reason for the three double plays Seattle turned in the first six innings.
The one who got away: Jesus Montero, who was up with the Yankees in September and who was subsequently dealt to the Mariners in the offseason, came into Monday’s game following a road trip in which he went 12-for-26 (.462) with nine RBIs, batted cleanup against his old team without doing appreciable damage. He was hitless in his first three at-bats and hit into an inning-ending double play in the sixth.
New kid on the block: Ichiro Suzuki singled on the second pitch he saw after being traded from the Mariners to the Yankees, then stole second base, his 16th steal of the year. After that, however, there wasn’t much lightning in Ichiro’s bat. He ended the night with a pop fly, a grounder and a solid line drive that went right to second baseman Dustin Ackley.
Ten for Kuroda: Kuroda has reached double figures in wins for the third consecutive season. He struck out nine, his second-best total of the year, in seven innings while allowing three hits, two of them to catcher John Jaso. His numbers would look more impressive if Seattle wasn’t hitting a whopping .196 at home this season.
A bomb for A-Rod: Rodriguez, who had just one home run since June 26 and only 14 bombs for the season, unloaded on rookie reliever Steve Delabar leading off the eighth inning. A-Rod, who was booed heartily, as usual, in Safeco Field, pumped his fist once in the early stages of his home run trot.
Eighth-inning scare: David Robertson had to be checked out by the medics after looking ill at ease while facing Ackley with two out in the eighth. Robertson was allowed to stay in the game and struck Ackley out.
Closing it out: Rafael Soriano suffered just his second blown save of the season in the ninth inning Sunday in Oakland. He came back on Monday with a 1-2-3 ninth inning to put away the Mariners and now is 25-for-27 in saves.
What’s next: The Yankees send former Mariner Freddy Garcia (4-3, 5.37) to the hill tonight against current Seattle ace Felix Hernandez (5-8, 2.82). The two Venezuelans are longtime friends.