SEATTLE — Salvaging a 2-5 road trip somehow felt extremely rewarding for Joe Girardi.
It’s not the standard the New York Yankees manager wants to play to. But considering how the rest of their West Coast swing had gone, putting together a late rally on Wednesday was important, especially with the hated Red Sox waiting Friday night at home.
“After losing five games by a total of six runs, to be able to win a series going into an off day was important,” Girardi said. “Two-and-five is not what we want on a road trip, but we won the second series and it’ll be a happier flight home.”
Pinch-hitter Jayson Nix lined a three-run double off reliever Shawn Kelley in the eighth inning, and the Yankees rallied for the 5-2 win over the Seattle Mariners.
After the Yankees failed to come through with runners in scoring position earlier in the game, Nix finally produced a clutch hit. Kelley left a 2-2 pitch over the middle of the plate and Nix’s liner scored Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira. It was Nix’s first hit in eight at-bats during the Yankees’ trip.
“We kind of struggled all day to get something going and it feels good to come through,” Nix said. “Whenever I get my chances, whenever they are, I just hope to do something positive and to be able to come through today was good.”
Nix probably will see increased playing time with Alex Rodriguez sidelined for a month or more because of a fractured left hand. Nix and Eric Chavez, who started at third base on Wednesday, are the likely candidates to handle the position until Rodriguez returns.
Nix was called on to pinch-hit for Raul Ibanez, who was 0-for-3 on the day. Seattle countered with Kelley out of the bullpen after reliever Josh Kinney opened the inning by hitting Jeter on the thigh, and Lucas Luetge (1-1) loaded the bases with singles to Cano and Teixeira.
Luetge got Curtis Granderson to foul out behind third for the first out. Once Nix was announced as the pinch-hitter, Seattle manager Eric Wedge called on Kelley, who has now allowed runs in three of his last four appearances. Russell Martin added a two-out RBI single off Kelley, who finally escaped the inning by getting Ichiro Suzuki to ground out.
Nix is 2-for-3 this season as a pinch-hitter.
“Really all I wanted to do was hit a sac fly. I didn’t want to do too much. I just wanted to get one run,” Nix said. “I think that helped because I wasn’t trying to do too much.”
David Phelps (2-3) threw 1 1-3 innings of relief and struck out two to get the victory, but the entire Yankees pitching staff held Seattle’s meager offense in check. Starter Ivan Nova struggled with his control, walking a career-high six, and gave up just two hits. Clay Rapada and Phelps bridged the sixth and seventh innings, David Robertson cruised through the eighth and Rafael Soriano pitched the ninth for his 26th save in 28 chances.
Seattle got just one hit after Jesus Montero’s broken-bat single with one out in the first inning — Casper Wells dumped a two-out single off Soriano in the ninth. Both Seattle runs scored in the first on Kyle Seager’s 10-pitch bases loaded walk and Mike Carp’s fielder’s choice.
“You’re asking a lot of your pitching staff to hold those guys down for that many innings,” Wedge said. “We almost squeezed by … but ultimately you can’t play it that tight against a veteran offensive club like that.”
Jeter homered in the first inning, his eighth of the season, off Hisashi Iwakuma. But the Yankees missed chances in the fourth and fifth innings before Nix’s clutch hit in the eighth.
Seattle honored Suzuki before his first at-bat. With Suzuki back in the leadoff spot on Wednesday, the Mariners played a video montage of Suzuki highlights before flashing up the message “Ichiro: Thanks for all the thrills.” Suzuki acknowledged the standing ovation by tipping his helmet around the stadium before grounding out to second leading off the game.
Wednesday could be Suzuki’s final appearance in Seattle. His contract expires after the season and the Yankees do not make another trip to the Pacific Northwest this season.
“I didn’t really show it but inside I was going through some emotional times, but it was very special these last few days. Definitely emotional inside,” Suzuki said through his interpreter.
NOTES: Jeter’s homer in the first was his 1,823 run scored, moving him into sole possession of 15th place. … Nova failed to record an out in the sixth inning. It was his shortest start since lasting five innings against the Mets on July 1 last year. … Seattle DH John Jaso walked in his first three at-bats. It was his first three-walk game since 2010.