Yankees legend Derek Jeter got gifts from the Mariners in a pregame ceremony honoring his Hall of Fame career.
He also got a gift from umpire Chris Segal on a fifth-inning walk (the 3-2 pitch looked to catch a lot of plate).
Still, Jeter got on base three times and scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning to lead New York to its first win of the season against the Mariners, 3-2, Tuesday at Safeco Field.
“He played a nice game,” said Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon. “I wish like hell he didn’t, but he played a nice game.”
The M’s had won first three games against the Yankees and can still take the season series for the first time since 2003 with a win in either of the next two games.
Back to Tuesday, and there were some eyebrows raised when Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma came back out in the eighth inning with the score tied at 2-2. The right-hander had already thrown a season-high 102 pitches and got hit hard by his final two batters. Brett Gardner just missed a home run that went a few feet foul before flying out to deep center, then Jeter bounced a ground-rule double over the center field wall leading to what would be the winning run.
Any second-guessing the decision to leave Iwakuma out there?
“What are you second guessing?” McClendon said. “He’s my No. 2 starter. He had 102 pitches. He said he felt great. That’s baseball.”
Iwakuma, who was yanked after the Jeter double, said he felt strong and that he could’ve gone longer. He had thrown six shutout innings between the first, when he gave up two runs, and the crucial eighth.
“Early on, it seemed like they had a very good game-plan on what I wanted to do — they had me by the book,” he said through an interpreter. “I had to change my game plan from second inning on. I had to get quick outs and use the inside of the plate more effectively.”
“He pitched extremely well,” McClendon added. “I’m not sure if he was probably too strong from the extra day’s rest early on, but once he found his groove, he was strong and he was throwing the ball extremely well. … I thought he kept them off balance pretty darn good until the eighth. The ball to center field we just couldn’t catch up with, but other than that, he pitched pretty good.”
On the other end, Yankees starter Vidal Nuno gave up one run over 5 2/3 innings and benefited from some solid defense, first a leaping catch by Ichiro and also a couple great plays by Jacoby Ellsbury.
“The way we swung the bat today didn’t really indicate the score,” said Dustin Ackley, who had a game-tying single with two outs in the seventh. “A lot of guys squared some balls up and didn’t have any luck. I think that’s going to happen. You’re going to have those nights.”
One of those nights. That appeared to be how McClendon felt, too.
His postgame press conference was kind of quiet, leading him to say at the end: “It’s OK guys. We just lost the game. We’re going to be OK. I promise.”