What it means: No one expected this seven-game West Coast swing to come at such a cost, but with an eighth-inning rally Wednesday the Yankees salvaged two wins on the road trip. It still came at a frightful price -- the team lost third baseman Alex Rodriguez (fractured bone in his left hand) -- but New York still has a huge cushion in the American League East and a day off Thursday to try and regroup.
What took so long? After a first-inning homer by Derek Jeter, the innings dragged on and on with nothing much to show from the Yankees' offense, which was 1-for 7 with men in scoring position before New York started beating up on the Seattle bullpen. The big blow in the four-run rally was a bases-clearing double by Jayson Nix that pushed the Yankees into the lead for good.
That's a relief: David Phelps took over after Clay Rapada forced a huge sixth-inning double play and retired the only four men he faced, keeping the game close until the offense could come out of hiding. David Robertson and Rafael Soriano took it from there. In all, Yankees relievers faced 12 batters and retired 11 of them.
Lineup shift: The lineup manager Joe Girardi put forward Wednesday was unlike any the Yankees had seen this year. Ichiro Suzuki was batting first instead of eighth. Jeter was second instead of leading off. Robinson Cano was third instead of fourth. Mark Teixeira was cleanup instead of fifth. And Curtis Granderson, who had 27 homers mostly batting second, was now fifth. "This puts Grandy in more of an RBI position," was the way Girardi described it.
First-inning power: For the second straight game, the second Yankees batter of the game homered in the first inning. On Tuesday it was Granderson. On Wednesday it was Jeter, who took a 3-2 pitch from Hisashi Iwakuma, a pitcher he'd never faced before, and hit it into the bullpen. Unfortunately for the Yankees, on both days, the offense didn't do much after that.
First man on, no runs in: In the second, third and fourth innings, the Yankees did exactly what they wanted to do, getting the first man on base. But the hopes that having the leadoff batter on would result in some offense was sadly mistaken. Granderson singled, stole second and made it to third with one out in the second, but he opted not to try and score on Eric Chavez's high chopper to second, and then Andruw Jones flew out. In the third, the Yankees had men on first and third with one, but Cano grounded into a double play. Two more walks in the third led to nothing, too.
The long first: When Nova needed 30 pitches to get through the first inning, giving up two runs in the process, it seemed as if he might not get very deep into the game. But he settled down after that, allowing just one man to reach base in the second and third innings, getting his pitch count down slightly and increasing his chances of staying in the game. Even so, four of the first six men to reach base against him walked, including two in the first, which is not what you want to see from someone who'd walked just five in his previous four starts. Through five innings he had thrown 97 pitches, and he was out of the game after walking his fifth and sixth men to open the sixth.
Wow, bow: Ichiro, who will not be in Seattle again until after the season because the Yankees don't return here, got another prolonged standing ovation from the Safeco Field crowd. Like he did in the first game, but not in the second, Ichiro stepped out of the batter's box, removed his batting helmet and bowed deeply to all corners of the park. He wound up going 1-for-5 and was caught stealing in the fifth.
What's next: An off day, then the Red Sox come to Yankee Stadium with Phil Hughes (9-8, 4.09) due to face Aaron Cook (2-3, 3.50) on Friday.