Commentary

Yanks bats can't trump Mariners aces

Heart of the Yankees order finishes combined 3-for-21 against Hernandez and Lee

Updated: July 1, 2010, 4:23 AM ET
By Ian Begley | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- After watching his hitters flail at Felix Hernandez's diverse, devastating arsenal of pitches Wednesday night, New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi gave "King" Felix his crown.

"That's as good as we've seen all year," Girardi said after Seattle's Hernandez blanked the Yanks in a complete-game win at Yankee Stadium. "Between his sinker, his curveball, his changeup -- he was really on tonight."

Hernandez struck out 11 and limited the Yankees to just two hits in a 7-0 Mariners win -- the first time the Bombers have been two-hit at home since Aug. 31, 2007, in a 9-1 loss to Tampa Bay. The Mariners backed up Hernandez with four home runs, beating up the Bombers' pitching for a second straight night. Wednesday night's loss was the Yankees' largest margin of defeat this season.

"You're going to hit these patches in a season," Girardi said.

The Yanks' most recent rough patch can be chalked up to facing two of the top pitchers in the American League the past two nights in Hernandez and Cliff Lee. Lee was touched up for two home runs but shut down the Yankees in the crucial moments of Seattle's 7-4 win Tuesday to earn a complete-game victory.

It was the first time teammates have gotten back-to-back complete-game wins against the Yankees in 10 years. Toronto's Chris Carpenter and Kelvim Escobar turned the trick against the Bombers on April 21 and 22 in the 2000 season.

"Those are two aces," said Yankees starter Javier Vazquez, who allowed three earned runs in six innings and fell to 6-7. "You know you can't give up much [with Hernandez and Lee on the mound]."

The heart of the Yankees' order finished a combined 3-for-21 in the games against Hernandez and Lee. Alex Rodriguez in particular struggled the past two nights, finishing 0-for-6 with two strikeouts and a walk. Derek Jeter went a combined 1-for-7 with two strikeouts.

"We had another great pitching performance out there tonight," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. "I thought that it was the best pure stuff that Felix has shown in a game. ... It was a tremendous performance."

Hernandez allowed just two hard-hit balls all night -- a Robinson Cano lineout with two on to end the first, and a double by Mark Teixeira in the fourth.

He struck out Teixeira and A-Rod a combined four times, leaving Rodriguez to fling his bat in frustration after striking out to end the sixth.

Hernandez also got Jeter to strike out on a 91 mph changeup to end the eight. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound righty routinely hit 95 mph on the Stadium radar gun with his fastball and bewildered the Yanks with a sinker that came in at 91-94.

"I think the biggest difference in him that I've seen from this year to last year is the movement on his fastball," Nick Swisher said. "His velocity is down to 94-95-mph [from 99 mph]. I'd much rather be facing 99 mph straight than 94 mph that's sinking."

The only cheers heard in the Bronx for Yankees hitters came in the top of the ninth, when Ramiro Pena worked a one-out walk. By then, it seemed inevitable that the Yankees were headed for their fourth shutout loss of the season -- just one shy of their 2009 total with 89 games to play.

Losing consecutively to Lee and Hernandez shouldn't cause too much agita among the Bronx faithful. The Yankees entered play Wednesday with a league-leading .358 on-base percentage, were second in runs scored with 413 and were fourth with a .275 team batting average. But if the Yankees' offense can't get anything going against Seattle's Ryan Rowland-Smith (1-7, 6.18 ERA) on Thursday, it might be the start of a troubling trend.

"The last couple of games here have been tough days," said Swisher, who homered twice off of Lee on Tuesday and went 0-for-4 with a strikeout against Hernandez. "Those two guys have done a great job against us. ... But tomorrow's a new day. We need to take out some aggression tomorrow."

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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Ian Begley

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