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May 1, 2014 at 8:41 PM

Mariners 4, Yankees 2 — Roenis Elias looked right at home in Yankee Stadium

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Video highlights

Roenis Elias likes the spotlight. Manager Lloyd McClendon talked about it all spring. From the first pitch he threw this spring till now, Elias pitched with a confidence and a swagger that said – “I belong up here.”

It was more than evident on Thursday night. He pitched seven innings, giving up two runs (one earned) on six hits with two walks and a career-high 10 strikeouts.

“The young man threw a tremendous game that’s for sure,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “We’d thought he’d be ok in this atmosphere. This is a tough venue. But we thought he’d be ok.”

Elias was better than that, putting together one of his best outings of the seasons.

There didn’t seem to be an ounce of intimidation in Elias from the moment he stepped on the mound. The stadium, the crowd, the pinstripes, the ghosts of Yankees’ past meant little to him.

“Nothing, nothing at all,” he said through a translator. “It’s just baseball.”

That’s how he has pitched since spring training. He attacks without fear.

“He’s been through a lot in his life already so baseball is fun for him,” catcher Mike Zunino said. “He’s a loose guy with a lot of confidence. He just goes out there and feeds off the energy. He’s the kind of guy that likes to rise the occasion.”

This was a big occasion. Every player’s first start in New York is something to remember. Elias said the only time he’d ever seen Yankee Stadium was on television.

With McClendon deciding to stick with Elias and push back ace Felix Hernandez by a day, despite his success in Yankee Stadium (4-1, 1.22 ERA in his last six starts), the start took on even more meaning. With 43, 121 in attendance – most ready to BOOOOOOOOO Robinson Cano at every turn – Elias had plenty of energy to work from and relished it.

“That’s where my enjoyment comes from,” Elias said. “That’s what makes me feel good.”

His curveball also felt good against the Yankees. How good? He threw it 41 times, per Baseball by Brooks (below)

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“After a couple innings, that’s when I started feeling more comfortable with it,” he said.

One thing that made that curveball very effective was his ability to throw to right-handers and start it on the inner half and break it at their backfoot. A lot of times, lefty pitchers will just try and throw it on the backdoor and nibble at the outside corner. Not Elias, he went inside with it.

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“Him being able to do that and still getting it to look like a strike is the biggest thing,” said catcher Mike Zunino. “He could bury it all day and if it didn’t look like a strike it wouldn’t be as good. Just the slot he was throwing it in today was perfect. We were able to get a lot of swing and misses with it. He was able to repeat it all the time. I think that’s why we had so much success with it.”

If you watched closely, Elias thought he threw a few more strikes than were called. A couple of times he started heading to the dugout on what he thought were third strikes, but were called balls by home plate ump Bill Miller. It’s something that umps don’t like and Miller let Zunino know about. Zunino talked to Elias after the second time and reminded him not to do that.

“He pitches with a lot of emotion,” Zunino said.

The other play that was interesting was the unearned run in the sixth inning with the Mariners leading 4-1

With two outs, Yankee manager Joe Girardi’s chirping from the dugout about the strike zone became too much for home plate Bill Miller, who called time to have some words with Girardi. That little pause for the confrontation seemed to take Elias out of his rhythm. He gave up a two-out single to Soriano. He still should have been out of the inning, getting Mark Teixeira to hit slow roller up the middle. Robinson Cano fielded the ball and decided to flip to second base. But Miller, who yelled for Cano to go first, wasn’t there and everyone was safe.

“I got caught in between,” Miller said. “I still should have been there.”

It went as an error on Cano and a mental error for Miller. Brian McCann made it hurt with single to left field to score Soriano. Elias got out of the inning, getting Yangervis Solarte to ground into a force out.

“Won’t happen again,” Miller said.

Michael Saunders had three hits while batting lead-off, including a RBI ground rule double.

McClendon off says that players make out the line-up. He uses the example of player getting three hits one night, he finds his way into the line-up the next game. So he was asked about Saunders.

“True to my word, players make out the line-up, managers don’t,” McClendon said. “If you get three hits, you’ll find your way into the line-up the next day.”



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