Yankees delight in drubbing King Felix

SEATTLE -- They had just pounded King Felix Hernandez into the ground, so the New York Yankees lounged around in their clubhouse, postgame.

In one corner, CC Sabathia watched his favorite football team, the Oakland Raiders, try to hold on against the Denver Broncos. In another, Mariano Rivera, still at 599 career saves, laughed with a reporter.

And on the other side of the clubhouse, two young hotshot catchers laughed and joked. Jesus Montero, who didn't play Monday, looked thrilled as he and Austin Romine -- former minor league roommates -- talked about Romine's first major league start and hit.

"You get the ball?" Montero asked Romine.

He sure did. It is being sent to his mom and dad down near Anaheim, Calif. And there could be more keepsakes this October for the Yankees and their kids in their early 20s.

With Francisco Cervelli out with a concussion and Joe Girardi not having much faith anymore in Jorge Posada's bat, the future of the Yankees is here. If Cervelli doesn't get better, Romine very well could be the Yankees' postseason backup catcher, while Montero seems to be locking down the DH spot.

For a change against Hernandez, the Yankees could lounge and laugh because they smashed Hernandez around the park in their 9-3 win. The Seattle Mariners had won in each of his previous six starts against the Yankees, and the King had a 1.29 ERA. On Monday, the Yankees scored six, all earned, off Hernandez in his six innings.

"We never seem to miss him, I know that," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It is nice to finally get a win against him."

In the fourth, Mark Teixeira hit a solo shot, No. 37 on the year, and Chris Dickerson -- who last swung a bat in a major league game on Sept. 1 -- launched a two-run shot and the Yankees extended their lead in the AL East to four games over the fading Boston Red Sox.

"I'll feel good if and when we clinch the division," Girardi said.

Girardi is right not to let up on the gas, but the Yankees are a resilient bunch. They are also a team that is all thumbs.

Alex Rodriguez is still out and may not return until Friday. Russell Martin missed another game, but could be back Tuesday. Dickerson, after he singled in the third and stole second, thought he broke his thumb when he slid into Dustin Ackley's cleat.

Dickerson, who played only because Nick Swisher needed to rest his bum elbow at first base, stayed in, which worked out well for Girardi and the Yankees.

In the fourth, the Yankees pounded King Felix like he was King Hippo from the old Mike Tyson Nintendo game. It was body blow after body blow as the Yankees just squared up Hernandez.

Teixeira started it, leading the inning off with his homer. Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner smacked doubles. Swisher mixed in a single.

And then Dickerson rifled his first home run of the year into the right-field seats. The no-doubt-about-it, two-run shot made it 6-1 Yankees and the runaway win was on its way.

"He made us look really smart is what he did," Girardi said of Dickerson.

Girardi said he started Dickerson because Phil Hughes is a fly-ball pitcher.

Hughes had a nice line -- six innings of one-run ball -- against the Mariners' anemic offense.

Girardi said he turned to Romine because he had experience catching Hughes, having been behind the plate for some of Hughes' rehab starts. The bigger reason, left largely unsaid, is that he is a far superior defender at this point compared to Montero.

Romine looked comfortable behind the plate and then picked up his first hit, a seventh-inning single, after Hernandez had left the game.

"It was everything I thought it would be," Romine said of his first start.

In the 48 hours Romine has been a Yankee, he has acted like he belongs, taking his work seriously. It could be a function of having grown up in the game, as his father, Kevin, played in the late 1980s and early '90s with the Boston Red Sox.

Romine showed up on Monday at 1 p.m. for the 7:05 start. He might be staying a long time.

"I haven't even thought about that," Romine said. "I don't know [Cervelli's] situation. I don't know what is going on, but if they want me to catch in the playoffs, if they want to keep me around that would probably be the coolest thing I've ever heard.

"That's what you want, you want to be in the playoffs with the Yankees. It would probably be the best part of my life."