SEATTLE — In a clubhouse with little experience of being in a playoff chase, Carlos Santana is the old guy that can be turned to for advice and guidance.
And sometimes he comes up with a clutch hit or two as a reminder he’s still pretty good player.
Santana snapped an 0-for-17 slump with a go-ahead two-run homer during Seattle’s three-run seventh inning, and the Mariners rallied to beat the slumping New York Yankees 4-3 on Wednesday.
“I trust Carlos in a number of different areas, certainly on the field, the pedigree and the experience level,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “I also trust him a lot in the clubhouse.”
Thanks to two tense, one-run victories, Seattle took two of three from New York for the second straight week to win the season series 4-2. The Mariners won 1-0 in 13 innings on Tuesday night. With the Yankees leading the AL East and Seattle in the first AL wild-card spot, the teams could meet again in the playoffs.
Aaron Judge hit his major league-leading 45th homer of the season for the Yankees, who have lost eight of 10.
“I think they’re really good. They can pitch, obviously have some good starters, but their bullpen is about as good a bullpen as we faced,” New York manager Aaron Boone said of Seattle. “They can mix and make, they got right and left in their lineup. Obviously they’re going to get (Julio) Rodriguez back. That team certainly feels for real.”
Seattle has not lost a series to a team other than AL West-leading Houston since mid-June, when it dropped four of five to the Los Angeles Angels. Seattle is 10-10 since the All-Star break, a challenging stretch that including 13 games against Houston and New York.
Seattle improved to 27-14 in one-run games.
“I think we just play so many of them that we’re more comfortable in them than other teams,” said Seattle reliever Paul Sewald, who pitched the ninth for his 15th save. “Those guys blow people out all the time. Playoffs are going to be tight and we’re really good at one run games. We’re just comfortable playing in them.”
Kyle Higashioka hit a go-ahead, two-run homer on the 115th and final pitch from Seattle starter Robbie Ray in the seventh to snap a 19-inning scoreless streak for the Yankees, and Judge’s longball against Penn Murfee (3-0) made it 3-1 later in the frame.
Murfee then retired DJ LeMahieu and Anthony Rizzo, Diego Castillo pitched a perfect eighth, and Sewald worked the ninth.
Ray and New York starter Nestor Cortes were both terrific, following standout performances Tuesday night from the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole and the Mariners’ Luis Castillo.
Cortes struck out 10 and didn’t allow a hit until Sam Haggerty homered off the left-field foul pole with one out in the sixth.
“It was a fastball away I yanked into the bottom of the zone where he crushes the ball,” Cortes said. “Just a mistake pitch.”
Cortes was lifted after giving up consecutive singles to Ty France and Mitch Haniger to open the seventh. Haniger’s hit scored France to make it 3-2.
“He just couldn’t put those last two guys away,” Boone said.
Albert Abreu (2-2) struck out Eugenio Suarez but left a changeup in the middle of the plate and Santana didn’t miss, hitting his seventh home run since being acquired by Seattle in June.
“It’s a long season, up and down, but my head never gets down. I’m strong mentally. My mentality now is try to help my teammates finish strong.”
The 36-year-old Santana reached the playoffs in four seasons with Cleveland.
Ray allowed three hits and two runs in 6.1 innings. He struck out seven but walked a season-high five.
“I overheard it on the broadcast last night — that’s like a couple playoff teams going at it in a playoff series,” Ray said. That’s what it felt like. … It seemed like it was punch for punch, every single pitch, every single inning.”
Seattle optioned OF/DH Kyle Lewis and LHP Brandon Bernardino to Triple-A Tacoma to clear roster spots for the return of Diego Castillo and utilityman Dylan Moore.
Lewis, the 2020 AL rookie of the year, struggled badly at the plate after returning from a concussion. Lewis was hitting .098 with 18 strikeouts in his previous 46 plate appearances.
“Kyle’s tool is the bat and it has been a struggle since he came back up here. Recently, the strikeout has crept in. I do think there’s a role for him on our club. But you need to be productive,” Servais said.
Seattle is also moving RHP Chris Flexen to the bullpen. The Mariners picked up a sixth starter when they acquired Luis Castillo at the trade deadline. Servais said Flexen may come back into the rotation later in the season as Seattle monitors the innings of rookie George Kirby.
Mariners: Seattle remains hopeful CF Julio Rodriguez (wrist) will be activated off the injured list before Friday’s series opener in Texas. … SS J.P. Crawford was given the day off.