By Dob Dutton The News Tribune
SEATTLE — That promotional schedule the Mariners put out billed Thursday as the night when 30,000 Macklemore bobblehead dolls would be distributed. And they were.
There was no mention, though, of staging what amounted to a Derek Jeter tribute for his final career appearance at Safeco Field. The Mariners kept the lid on those plans prior to their 6-3 loss to the New York Yankees.
Jeter singled and scored in his first two at-bats. He drove in two runs with a single in his third at-bat and walked in his fourth plate appearance. The crowd of 40,596 stood and applauded when he came to the plate in the ninth.
And loud boos rolled down when Jeter was called out at first on a close play. His sharp grounder back to the mound struck lefty reliever Charlie Furbush on the right wrist, but Furbush retrieved the ball in time to get out.
Then more cheers as Jeter trotted back to the dugout.
“Fans have always been good to me here,” he said. “Even when they get on you a little bit, they still respect you. They were awesome.”
It was quite a show and, just maybe, it atones for 0-for-5 the Mariners hung on Jeter in his big-league debut on May 29, 1995 at the Kingdome. Jeter was 7-for-12 in helping the Yankees sweep the three-game series.
“He doesn’t look like a guy who is ready to retire,” said second baseman Robinson Cano, who played alongside Jeter over the nine previous seasons.
“The thing you’ve got to realize is he didn’t play last year (because of injuries). So this year, it’s two months into the season, and now he’s getting his rhythm back.”
Not that it was just Jeter.
Jacoby Ellsbury opened the scoring with a booming two-run homer in the first inning, after Jeter’s first single, against Mariners rookie left-hander Roenis Elias.
Ellsbury also turned in the night’s defensive gem by snatching extra bases away from Cano with a leaping catch at the center-field wall in the fifth inning.
“That’s a big point in the game,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We’re up 6-2, and if he doesn’t make it, maybe it’s 6-4. I’m not sure if it goes over, but it would have at least scored a run.”
The Yankees flashed outfield leather all night.
After Ellsbury left the game because of tightness in his right hip, Brett Gardner shifted from left to center and made a leaping catch at the wall on Mike Zunino’s drive in the seventh.
And ex-Mariners star Ichiro Suzuki snatched extra bases away from Stefen Romero on a drive to deep right in the ninth inning.
New York rookie right-hander Chase Whitley, while benefiting from those defensive gems, generally stifled the Mariners’ attack while yielding just five hits in 7 2/3 innings.
“He’s got a really good change-up, and that makes his fastball better,” said first baseman Logan Morrison, who hit his first homer as a Mariner on a two-out drive in the second inning.
“The pitch I hit off him was a slider that didn’t break very much. I got lucky and snuck it out.”
David Robertson got the final two outs for his 16th save after ex-Mariner Shawn Kelley surrendered one-out doubles in the ninth inning to Dustin Ackley and Morrison.
The Mariners had only been swept once previously this season — April 18-20 at Miami in the middle portion of an eight-game skid. The had won eight of nine before the Yankees hit town.
“Those things,” Cano said, “you’ve got to go home, forget about them and get ready for tomorrow. We’re going to be facing a team (Texas) in our division.”
Elias, 5-5, got off to a rocky start in the first inning by yielding a one-out single to Jeter, to right (of course), before letting Ellsbury impersonate a power hitter.
Ellsbury absolutely crushed a 2-1 fastball — full arm extension, and wham! — for a no-doubt homer to right and a 2-0 lead.
Elias said he made mistakes while surrendering six runs in 3 1/3 innings but didn’t count that pitch as one of them.
“That was just a fastball,” he said, “and he hit a home run. What can I say?”
In the end, though, this was Jeter’s night, a fitting farewell in Seattle.
“It’s still hard to think I’m not going to play another game here,” he said, “but when you come to some of these cities, you start thinking about a lot of the memories you’ve had here.
“Seattle will always be special because it was the beginning.”