Had Wednesday’s game not been washed out by rain, Felix Hernandez would have faced the Yankees Thursday night. But the postponement pushed Hernandez’s next start to Friday in Houston, leaving rookie Roenis Elias to do what he could do with the AL East leaders. Even at his dominating best, Hernandez couldn’t have improved much on Elias’s performance.
Employing an effective curve, the Cuban fanned a career-high 10, including five in a row spanning the fourth and fifth innings, leading the Mariners to a 4-2 victory that gave Seattle five wins in six games following a season-high, eight-game losing streak.
“It was fun to watch him,” center fielder Michael Saunders told Root Sports. “Elias was keeping guys off balance. He wasn’t thinking too much, just keeping them off balance and getting us back in the dugout quick. He did a fantastic job.”
The Mariners (12-14) ran their winning streak at Yankee Stadium to four games dating to last season, Seattle’s longest in the Bronx since a six-game winning streak from 2001-03.
After allowing Jacoby Ellsbury a leadoff homer in the first, Elias breezed through the New York lineup until the sixth when an unearned run drove up his pitch count and hastened his departure. Elias worked seven innings, allowing six hits among his 110 pitches. He walked two and improved to 2-2, 3.09.
“The young man threw a tremendous game, that’s for sure,” said manager Lloyd McClendon. “We thought he would be okay in this atmosphere. I didn’t think Yankee Stadium would bother him that much, and it didn’t. He commanded the strike zone with his fastball, and his curve as exceptional. He needed to make quality pitches against a veteran lineup and for the most part he did that.”
After Yoervis Medina worked a clean eighth, Fernando Rodney experienced only one blip in the ninth — a single to right by Ichiro — in notching his sixth save of the year.
Robinson Cano, who defected from the Yankees over the winter for a 10-year, $240 million deal, had a double and drove in two runs. Michael Saunders, getting the start in center in place of struggling Abraham Almonte, had three hits and drove in a run as the leadoff hitter.
“He had a big day for us,” McClendon said of Saunders. “When you’ve got guys getting on base you have a chance to score runs.”
The Mariners scored in the first on Cano’s double to deep right, added a run in the third and two more in the fourth, and then relied on Elias to keep the Yankees at bay. An error on Brad Miller, snoozing at shortstop, set up New York’s second run, an RBI single by Brian McCann that scored Alfonso Soriano in the sixth.
RHP Hisashi Iwakuma will rejoin the Mariners rotation Saturday when they play Game 2 of a three-game series at Minute Maid Park. Iwakuma has not pitched this season due to a sprained finger tendon . . . Almonte finished April with the worst battling line for that month in franchise history among players with 100 or more at-bats. Almonte hit .204 with a .248 on-base percentage, a slugging mark of .301 and an OPS of .549. Next worst: Chone Figgins, April, 2011: .214/.261/.311/.572. Almonte did not play Thursday night until he was inserted as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning.
NEXT: The Mariners begin a three-game series with the Houston Astros Friday at Minute Maid Park. RHP Felix Hernandez (3-1, 2.40) will throw opposite Brad Peacock (0-2, 5.95). The Astros tagged Hernandez with his only loss April 21 at Safeco Field during a series in which last-place Houston took two of three.