Yankees

Ibanez Blast Off King Felix The Difference As Yankees Top Mariners In Opener

3-Run Shot In 6th Turns Deficit Into Advantage In Eventual 6-2 Victory
Raul Ibanez

The Yankees’ Raul Ibanez connects on a sixth-inning, three-run home run off the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez ion May 11, 2012. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (AP) — Raul Ibanez tried jumping at the first pitch against Felix Hernandez, and that didn’t work.

Then he tried patience, and that failed, too.

So he went back to being aggressive, and that paid off.

Ibanez hit a go-ahead, three-run homer off his former Seattle teammate with two outs in the sixth inning, leading the New York Yankees over the Mariners 6-2 Friday night.

“When you’re facing an elite pitcher like him, sometimes the first pitch is the best one he’s going to throw you,” Ibanez said. “Then he gets nasty.”

Hernandez, his teammate from 2005-08, had just been given a 2-1 lead. He started Ibanez the same way in every at-bat.

“I was throwing that sinker for the first pitch,” he said, before detailing the mistake that caused the homer: “That was in the middle of the plate.”

Robinson Cano had four hits for New York, which overcame home runs by Dustin Ackley and former-Yankee Jesus Montero to send the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner to his first loss in four decisions at new Yankee Stadium. On consecutive nights, New York beat Tampa Bay’s David Price and King Felix, among the AL’s elite pitchers.

“I just think our guys are starting to feel better at the plate,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Ibanez, who joined the Yankees a week after spring training began, is hitting .268 with six homers and 19 RBIs. That followed a slow exhibition season, which caused Girardi to make some inquiries.

“They said it takes him a while to get going in spring training,” the manager said. “Sometimes you find that with older players.”

He had faced Hernandez only three times before Friday, saying his most familiar view was seeing Hernandez’s back from the outfield.

Hernandez (3-2) allowed 11 hits — two short of his career high — and four runs in 6 2-3 innings, his second-shortest outing this season. He struck out seven and walked two, with his ERA rising from 1.89 to 2.29.

King Felix had been 3-0 at new Yankee Stadium, allowing one run in 24 innings. He weakened after Derek Jeter fouled off five pitches during a 10-pitch walk in the fifth, which started a stretch in which seven of Hernandez’s last 12 batters reached.

“I was thinking in my mind, `Keep working him, keep working him. See if you can get this guy tired,”‘ Girardi recalled. “I think maybe Jete’s at-bat was the start of something.”

Hernandez needed 53 pitches to get through four innings, then 48 for the next 2 1-3.

“Derek can do that,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He puts up long at-bats, but you just can’t give into it.”

Hiroki Kuroda (3-4) improved to 3-1 at home, giving up two runs and six hits in seven innings. He fell behind twice, allowing Ackley’s homer on his third pitch and then Montero’s opposite-field drive to right.

“I had to regroup myself quickly,” Kuroda said through a translator. “I just trusted myself and trusted myself and was able to get through it.”

Cano had three singles and double. He is 12 for 20 in his last five games, raising his average from .255 to .308. He is 14 for 34 (.412) against Hernandez in his career.

Cano’s first-inning single tied the game — the first run off Hernandez in an opening inning since July 22 at Boston.

With the Yankees trailing 2-1, Alex Rodriguez walked leading off the bottom of the sixth, Cano singled and Mark Teixeira hit into a force out at second. Nick Swisher took a called third strike, and Ibanez lined the next pitch over the auxiliary scoreboard in right-center.

“Kevin Long mentioned something to me before that third at-bat,” Ibanez said, a reference to the Yankees’ hitting coach, “told me I was rushing out there a little quick. I tried to incorporate that into that at-bat, and it worked out.”

Andruw Jones added the first home run by a Yankees pinch-hitter since Jorge Posada on Sept. 14, 2010, a two-run drive in the eighth off Steve Delabar.

Montero returned to Yankee Stadium for the first time since New York dealt him to Seattle in January for pitchers Michael Pineda and Jose Campos, both on the disabled list. Of Montero’s five homers this year, he has pulled just one.

“I was thinking all the time, right field,” he said. “I tried to hit the ball over there every time that I go to the plate. They were making a lot of good pitches. It was a little tough, but I finally got it over there and I hit that one really good.”

NOTES: David Robertson got two outs in a non-save situation, his first appearance since wasting a one-run, ninth-inning lead in a 4-1 loss to Tampa Bay on Wednesday — his first blown save as Mariano Rivera’s replacement. Rivera was in the Yankees’ clubhouse, walking without crutches but limping. … Hector Noesi, obtained in the Montero trade, starts for the Mariners on Saturday against Phil Hughes. … Blake Beavan, hit on an arm by a Miguel Cabrera liner last Monday, will be pushed back from Sunday to Tuesday’s game at Boston. Seattle will start Kevin Millwood on Saturday, followed by Jason Vargas.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)