By The Associated Press
The Yankees pounced on Felix Hernandez, building a big cushion for C.C. Sabathia in a showdown of acclaimed veteran pitchers, and defeated the Seattle Mariners, 7-3, on Monday.
Luke Voit, Brett Gardner and Thairo Estrada homered off Hernandez, giving Sabathia a 6-0 lead after two innings, and the Yankees held on for their 12th win in 16 games.
Hernandez (1-3) settled down and lasted five innings, allowing seven runs.
Hernandez had allowed just two homers in 12 career starts in the Bronx. He allowed three in seven batters Monday.
“One of those nights when I didn’t have my best stuff,” Hernandez said.
Domingo Santana and Dee Gordon homered off Sabathia (2-1), but he limited Seattle to three runs over five innings and struck out five in his first start since becoming the 17th major leaguer with 3,000 strikeouts in a career.
Sabathia and Hernandez entered with a combined 5,498 strikeouts, the most between opposing starters since San Francisco’s Randy Johnson (4,867) faced Houston’s Roy Oswalt (1,418) in 2009.
Sabathia struck out Mitch Haniger on three pitches to start the game and cruised the first time through the order. He tired in the fifth, loading the bases with a four-pitch walk to Santana with two outs before breaking Jay Bruce’s bat on a groundout to first.
Hernandez had been sharper this season than during a dismal 2018, relying more on his curveball and doing a better job throwing strikes. That all fell apart quickly in the Bronx.
Voit hit a two-run shot in the first, and Gardner homered leading off the second. Gardner also tripled and scored in the third.
Estrada went the other way to right-center in the second for his first major league homer, then got the customary silent treatment in his dugout after rounding the bases.
“You see the way we didn’t acknowledge him,” Sabathia said with a smile. “That always tells you that we care a lot about a guy.”
Hernandez and Estrada both grew up in Valencia, Venezuela.
“I did watch a lot of his games as a kid,” the 23-year-old Estrada said through an interpreter. “It’s kind of like a dream to face him and be able to connect.”
Seattle loaded the bases with one out in the sixth against Jonathan Holder but couldn’t push any runs across. Adam Ottavino relieved and got a flyout from Haniger, and Estrada made a stellar play at short to charge Tim Beckham’s slow grounder for the final out.
Santana hit a two-run homer in the fourth and Gordon lined a solo shot in the fifth. Gordon had three hits, but the Mariners have dropped seven of eight.
New York hasn’t lost a season series against Seattle since 2003, going 12-0-4.
Third baseman Gio Urshela, still in the lineup despite Miguel Andujar’s return from the injured list on Saturday, helped Sabathia with a couple of slick defensive plays. He made a stellar over-the-shoulder catch on Omar Narvaez’s flair in shallow left field in the third, then barehanded a chopper and threw smoothly to nab Beckham at first leading off the fourth.
“That’s my game now, is trying to get soft contact,” Sabathia said. “And these guys are making great plays behind me.”
Clint Frazier (sprained ankle) returned from the Yankees’ injured list and started in right field. He went 0 for 4.