Raul Ibanez was asked post-game about his performance at Yankee Stadium last year and now, in the first two games here this season. Ibanez hit two more homers tonight in a 12-2 win by the Mariners and now has three in the two games so far. He also has hit nine in his last 11 games at this park dating back to last season, including the playoffs.
His play here is one of the reasons Eric Wedge put him in the lineup last night against left-handed starter C.C. Sabathia, although Ibanez’s career numbers versus the southpaw had much to do with it as well. But asked about the park afterwards, Ibanez still would not submit to the obvious.
“I’ve been feeling better at the plate coming into this series,’’ Ibanez said. “I try not to make too much of it. I try to grind out every at-bat. I think I’ve been feeling better late at the plate and it’s carried over.’’
So, um, it’s not the park?
“I try not to think about it too much,” he said. “It’s too much information for me, personally, to think about. They’re all valid questions. I just don’t really have an answer.”
In Ibanez’s defense, his two homers tonight went to right-center and to left field. So, it wasn’t the short porch coming into play this time.
Ibanez says he’ll never forget his late-season heroics for the Yankees last year, with season-saving homers in September and then the two big ones in Game 3 of the AL Division Series against Baltimore. But the fans here might have forgotten a bit.
They’d greeted Ibanez with the familiar “Rauuullllll!” seranding at the game’s start and last night as well. But after the second home run he hit tonight, those were boos mixed in to the cheers.
“It sounds the same,’’ Ibanez said, with a slight grin. “I don’t want to say that because I don’t want it to get louder.’’
Yankees starter Phil Hughes heard his share of boos after the Mariners chased him just two thirds of an inning in.
“I thought the guys did a good job, and not just in that first inning,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “In the middle part of the ballgame. You never know in this ballpark. So, scoring a couple of more runs in a couple of different innings and doing some things. So, to keep going is important. You score a lot of runs in the first inning, you like to think it should be enough but you never know. You don’t want to be complacent with it, so you keep going and our guys did a good job with that.”
Wedge was pleased to see Ibanez finally start to produce on the field for the Mariners the way he has off of it since spring training began.
“You saw him start heading back in the right direction when we gave him that time off,” Wedge said. “The guy works so hard. You could see his swing start to come around in BP. We gave him a couple of at-bats and it starts to leak into the game. He gets a chance to play and he keeps going with it. He’s had a lot of success in this ballpark and he’s the consummate pro. He doesn’t worry about anything. He knows he’s ultimately going to be where he needs to be at the end.”
Kyle Seager, who had the three-run blast that capped Seattle’s scoring in the sixth, said Ibanez is someone the entire team looks up to.
“He’s absolutely everything you look for in leadership,’’ Seager said. “He’s a guy you can talk to, a guy you can watch. He does absolutely everything you can ask. His work ethic is second to none and we all get to see that behind the scenes a little bit.’’