SEATTLE -- After losing two of three games to the Royals in Kansas City over the weekend, the New York Yankees put themselves in good position to win two of three, at least, from the Mariners here in Seattle with Tuesday's 3-2 victory behind Vidal Nuno, with Masahiro Tanaka going Wednesday.
The bats still didn't do much to scare anyone but just enough to eke this one out to move the Yankees into a second-place tie with the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East, 5½ games behind the Toronto Blue Jays, who lost Tuesday. The win also helped the Yankees (32-31) avoid falling below .500 for the first time since April 9, when they were 4-5. David Robertson picked up his 15th save, getting three strikeouts in the ninth.
A timely hit! Jacoby Ellsbury got the big hit -- and extended his hitting streak to 14 games -- with a line single to right, scoring Derek Jeter (ground-rule double) in the top of the eighth to break a 2-2 tie. In fact, the Yankees followed Sunday's horrendous game of 1-for-17 with RISP by going 3-for-5 with RISP on Tuesday, which, considering they scored just three runs, demonstrates just how misleading that stat can be.
Cannot tell a lie: Jeter apparently missed the bag while rounding first on his eighth-inning drive to left-center, but the Yankees got a break when the ball bounced over the fence, allowing Jeter to double back, touch first and then settle in safely at second.
Not bad, Nuno: The Yankees got a quality outing out of Nuno, 5 2/3 innings of four-hit, one-run ball, with a big assist to the ballpark and his outfielders (see below). Working with virtually no margin for error, he left in a position to win his second game of the season, but Dellin Betances uncharacteristically couldn't hold the lead.
Unlucky seventh: Betances had a rare bad inning, and all of his own making as he hit Mike Zunino with a curveball to give the Mariners a one-out baserunner, threw a wild pitch that allowed Zunino to reach second, and then gave up an RBI single to right that just eluded a leaping Brian Roberts to tie the game at 2 in the bottom of the seventh.
First blood: The Yankees' two runs in the first inning were the most they had scored in a first inning since May 23, when they opened with three against the Chicago White Sox in a game they would go on to lose, 6-5.
Jeter started it off with a bouncer over second base, moved to second on Mark Teixeira's single, and scored on Carlos Beltran's double. Teixeira then scored when Seattle shortstop Brad Miller made a diving stop on McCann's hot shot in the hole but threw wide to first, resulting in an infield single. In fact, the Yankees hadn't scored in the first inning at all in a solid week, when they put up one run in the opening frame against the Oakland A's on Teixeira's RBI single on June 3 at The Stadium. They lost that one, too, 5-2.
Dry spell: After McCann's first-inning single -- which might have been scored an error since a good throw would have easily nailed him -- the Yankees did not get another hit until there were two outs in the fifth, a stretch of 12 batters. Brett Gardner singled to right to break the spell, followed by a very unpopular walk to Jeter -- a check-swing on a 3-2 pitch -- but the Yankees got nothing when Ellsbury took a third strike to end the inning.
Close call: The Mariners came within a whisker of taking a 4-2 lead in the fourth inning, when, with two on and two out, Michael Saunders launched a Nuno pitch into deep center field. Jacoby Ellsbury took off on a dead run and made a leaping catch, smashing hard into the wall as he came down with the baseball. Earlier in the inning, the Mariners passed up a chance to challenge Brett Gardner's arm, holding Cole Gillespie at third on Mike Zunino's fly to medium left. It was the right call -- Gardner's throw home was right on the money.
Safe at Safeco: Nuno was helped enormously by the hitter-unfriendly dimensions of Safeco Field, as well as the play of his outfielders. In addition to Ellsbury's catch and Gardner's throw, Ichiro Suzuki turned back the clock to make a leaping catch on Kyle Seager in the second.
Remember me? Robinson Cano reminded his ex-teammates of what used to be with a double into the gap in the first inning off Nuno. Cano came around to score on Gillespie's single for the Mariners' only run off Nuno. Cano also singled sharply to center right back at Adam Warren with one out in the eighth.
No free rides: Iwakuma's walks to Brian Roberts in the second and Jeter in the fifth were just the fourth and fifth unintentional walks he has allowed all season (58 innings).
Take a seat, Cap: In a pregame ceremony, Jeter was presented with an original seat from the Kingdome where he got his first big-league hit in 1995, as well as a base, and a check for the $5,000 for his foundation. Jeter was also given a watch by Cano and treated to a video tribute on the big screen that featured footage of Jeter's first hit, a single off Tim Belcher.
Tomorrow: Tanaka (9-1, 2.02) faces RHP Chris Young (5-3,, 3.42) in the middle game of this three game set, first pitch at 10:10 p.m.