NEW YORK — Charlie Furbush summed up the postgame mood for many of his fellow Mariners when he shrugged and said he felt he pitched well despite the results.
The Mariners, to a man, played a pretty good ballgame Tuesday night despite taking a 4-3 loss to the New York Yankees. Problem is, on a night the umpiring crew was anything but perfect, the Mariners were far enough away from perfection that victory was hardly guaranteed.
And so, when Furbush didn’t get strike calls he needed in a critical seventh inning, the Mariners learned a lesson many a team has found out the hard way: needing to rely on a call going your way isn’t a winning recipe at Yankee Stadium. Indeed, the wandering strike zone of plate umpire Jerry Layne might have been rendered moot had the Mariners not stranded 11 runners on base and allowed Yankees ace CC Sabathia to wriggle off several early hooks.
“He’s definitely not going to give you anything,” said Raul Ibanez, who went 2 for 3 with a two-run homer off Sabathia and is now 14 for 45 (.311) lifetime against his former Yankees teammate. “He’s a fierce competitor.”
The Mariners had a 3-0 lead by the sixth inning after Ibanez took Sabathia over the short porch in right field. Ibanez had made that porch his friend last season while playing a key part-time role for the Yankees, and that success in this park coupled with his solid track record off Sabathia had led manager Eric Wedge to give him a rare start against a southpaw.
That gamble by Wedge seemed to pay off big after Ibanez stunned the crowd of 41,267 with his blast. But then Felix Hernandez tweaked his back making a throw to second base during a tough sixth inning, and the night quickly came undone for his team.
Robinson Cano drilled a tying, two-run double off Furbush in the seventh and Lyle Overbay later added a sacrifice fly that frame to provide the Yankees their margin of victory.
Hernandez had made a nice play fielding a Curtis Granderson grounder and throwing Cano out at second. But it quickly became apparent he was hurting, and that brought out the training staff.
When they left, Overbay drilled a double to right field that bounced off the top of the wall and back on to the field. Granderson scored from first on the play to cut the lead to 3-1.
Hernandez escaped further trouble, but Wedge pulled him from there at 97 pitches.
The back spasms have been a recurring irritant for Hernandez. They had nothing to do with a collision he had with Overbay in the fourth inning while covering first base on a grounder fielded by second baseman Robert Andino.
Andino’s throw to first was caught in plenty of time by Kendrys Morales to record the out. But Hernandez was standing right in front of the bag and Overbay clipped him on the right leg before he could get out of the way.
Hernandez shook the collision off. But the umpires after converging called Hernandez for obstruction and ruled the runner safe, despite the fact Overbay was already out by several feet before contact occurred.
“On the type of play like this, which was a ground ball, it doesn’t matter if the runner is 89 feet away when he gets obstructed or if he’s one inch away,” third-base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt told a pool reporter after the game. “If he is obstructed before first base, the ball is dead and he is awarded first base.”
Hernandez pitched out of that two-on, one-out jam, as well as several others before leaving after six with the back issue.
“The whole game, I was good and didn’t feel anything,” said Hernandez, who allowed only five hits and struck out eight. “After I made that play, I’d turned around too quick and all the weight from my right side went to the left side. I felt a pinch in there. Nothing bad, nothing serious. I’ll be ready for the next one.”
Things went from bad to worse when Yoervis Medina gave up a bloop single to start the seventh. One out later, Furbush came on and appeared to catch Brett Gardner looking at a third strike on a full-count pitch, only to have it called a ball.
The next batter, Cano, also caught a break on a two-strike offering. Soon after, he drilled a tying, two-run double to center.
Furbush walked Vernon Wells intentionally, but then walked Granderson as well to load the bases before Overbay lined the sac fly to center.
The Mariners had left the bases loaded against Sabathia in the fourth, then stranded runners in scoring position in the third and fifth. Sabathia left one out into the seventh, his pitch count at 112.
“I thought our guys did a nice job of fighting him and making him work and doing some things,” Wedge said. “But we never really had that knockout blow there to really separate.”