By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
SEATTLE — It was the Seattle Mariners’ turn Tuesday night to pay tribute to New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter for a marvelous 20-year career that began a few hundred yards away where the old Kingdome once stood.
Permitting him to play a key role in a New York victory wasn’t in the program. But here was Jeter, scoring two runs, in a 3-2 victory over the Mariners at Safeco Field.
It was Jeter who knocked out Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma with a one-out double in the eighth. And it was Jeter who scored when Jacoby Ellsbury lashed an 0-2 fastball from Charlie Furbush for an RBI single.
“We thought he was going to be looking for the breaking ball,” catcher Mike Zunino said. “We just didn’t get the fastball far enough outside.
“We still jammed him, but he was able to get it into right-center enough where (Michael) Saunders couldn’t get there.”
Nope, not what the Mariners had in mind after returning home from a 6-1 road trip. It was, in fact, a night littered with missteps, near-misses and, ultimately, frustration.
“I think the way we swung the bat today didn’t indicate the score,” left fielder Dustin Ackley said. “Our guys squared some balls up, and we really didn’t have any luck.”
Ex-Mariner Ichiro Suzuki took extra bases away from Kyle Seager to start the second inning, and Ellsbury ran down Saunders’ deep fly at the wall with two outs and runners at second and third in the fourth.
“You’re going to have those nights,” Ackley said. “I think we were close to scoring five or six runs.”
The flip side: shortstop Brad Miller made a bad two-out throw in the first inning after making a diving stop. That cost a run. And center fielder James Jones believed he should have caught Jeter’s double in the eighth.
And there was Furbush missing location against Ellsbury.
OK, let’s reset.
Yankees rookie lefty Vidal Nuno gave up one run in the first inning but nothing more before exiting, with a 2-1 lead, with two outs and none on in the sixth inning. He gave up four hits, struck out two and walked one.
When Dellin Betanaces replaced Nuno, the Mariners inserted Endy Chavez for Cole Gillespie, whose RBI single provided the only run against Nuno. Chavez grounded out.
But Betanaces threw the Mariners a lifeline in the seventh inning by plunking Zunino with one out and throwing a wild pitch.
Saunders struck out, but Ackley lined a single just off the glove of a leaping Brian Roberts at second. Zunino got a good jump and scored ahead of the throw from right fielder Ichiro Suzuki.
Think about that: How often did a catcher, did anyone, score from second on a sharp single to short right against the Suzuki that Mariners fans remember?
Manager Lloyd McClendon chose to stick with Iwakuma, who had thrown 102 pitches, and … dismissed the suggestion of second thoughts.
“He’s my No. 2 starter.” McClendon said. “He had 102 pitches, and he said he felt great. That’s baseball.”
Iwakuma agreed fatigue wasn’t a factor. Whatever it was, he surrendered three straight rockets.
Brett Gardner just missed a leadoff homer to right when the ball hooked foul before flying out to deep center. Jeter followed with a double on a ball that hopped the center-field wall.
“I feel like (the ball) died, actually,” Jones said. “I thought I should have made that play. I was playing a little bit shallow, and playing the opposite way — which is where Jeter usually hits it.
“But that’s one of those plays you’ve got to make.”
In came Furbish, who jumped ahead 0-2 on Ellsbury before … you know. Betances (4-0) vultured the victory after blowing a save when Adam Warren and David Robertson protected the one-run lead over the final two innings.
Robertson worked around a two-out walk in the ninth for his 15th save.
The Mariners’ missteps started early.
The Yankees cuffed Iwakuma (4-3) for two runs in the first inning after Jeter, to the cheers of many in the crowd of 28,405, grounded a one-out single back through the middle.
Jeter stopped at second on Mark Teixeira’s two-out single into center.
Carlos Beltran sliced a double into the left-field corner that scored Jeter and, probably, should have scored Teixeira, who stopped at third. Brian McCann followed with a grounder up the middle.
Miller made a fine stop in ranging from short…but, with time to gather himself, unleashed a throw that pulled Wille Bloomquist off first base. The result was an RBI single and a 2-0 lead.
“I pulled it a little bit,” Miller said. “I knew McCann was running, but I had to leave my feet. You don’t have too much time but, obviously, I’d like to have that one back in a one-run ballgame.”
That kind of night.