Felix walks tightrope in victory over Yankees

Felix walks tightrope in victory over Yankees

Felix walks tightrope in victory over Yankees
SEATTLE -- It wasn't a vintage performance of pure dominance for Felix Hernandez, but with a little help from the bullpen, he still showed the Yankees on Tuesday why he's the King in Seattle.

Hernandez worked around an early home run, several threats and a bout of wildness in the later innings to fend off the Yankees and lead the Mariners to a 4-2 win, evening the three-game set at Safeco Field.

"It was a good big league ballgame," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "It was a great group effort by our guys. It starts with Felix, but the bullpen came in and did a nice job, obviously with [closer Tom Wilhelmsen] finishing it off. You work so hard to try to push that extra run across there in the bottom half of the eighth, but you carry a lead for most of the ballgame there, so a lot of good things happened tonight for our guys."

The biggest threat by the Yankees came in the eighth, as Hernandez lost all sense of command. Leading 3-1, he hit Derek Jeter with the first pitch of the inning and two batters later nailed Alex Rodriguez on the hand, his third hit batter in a two-inning span. Rodriguez hit the ground in pain immediately, and left the game with a non-displaced fracture in his left hand.

"It wasn't intentional. I mean, it was a close game at the time," Jeter said. "I think Al got hit with a changeup. It's just one of those freak things. You wish it didn't happen; obviously when somebody gets injured it's pretty bad."

While Rodriguez was being looked at by the training staff, Wedge went to his bullpen to get Lucas Luetge. The left-hander allowed a single to Robinson Cano to load the bases and Mark Teixeira followed with a sacrifice fly to bring Jeter home and pull the Yankees to 3-2. After sending Raul Ibanez to the dirt with a high and tight fastball, Luetge was able to set him down swinging to end the eighth.

It wasn't the only inning Hernandez got into a jam, as the ace ran into big trouble in the fourth. Hernandez loaded the bases with a pair of singles and a walk with one out, but struck out Ibanez -- his first of four on the night -- and induced Eric Chavez to fly out to center to escape unscathed.

In the fifth, Hernandez again faced a bit of a jam after former teammate Ichiro Suzuki led off with a double and eventually moved to third with two outs. Hernandez was able to strand him there as he struck out Curtis Granderson to end the threat.

"Command was off the whole game," Hernandez said. "I don't know what was going on, I couldn't even throw a strike. I was up a little bit. But you know, when I get in trouble, I just make good pitches."

"That's what he does," Wedge said. "He bears down, he steps up in those types of opportunities, he executes pitches, he's just a great competitor with obviously great stuff."

The dynamic right-hander did have his moments as he breezed through the first three innings, facing just one over the minimum thanks in large part to a pair of double plays. Hernandez lasted 7 1/3 innings and allowed two runs on four hits, but walked three and hit three batters, tying a career high.

While Hernandez was keeping the potent Yankees at bay, the Mariners offense gave its ace some unusual early run support. It's been a season-long struggle to manufacture runs at home early in games, but Seattle did just that in a two-run third to grab a 3-1 lead.

Brendan Ryan led off the frame with a single and moved to third on a one-out single by Michael Saunders. Jesus Montero followed with a broken-bat flare into shallow right to score Ryan and advance Saunders to third. John Jaso then brought Saunders home with a sacrifice fly to center.

Add in a first-inning home run by Michael Saunders and an insurance run in the eighth on an RBI infield single by Kyle Seager, and the Mariners had a more balanced game on Tuesday than they have had at Safeco in awhile.

"We've had much more of those of late if you look at all of our series here post-All-Star break," Wedge said. "Like I've said so many times, you've got to win ballgames in different fashion and you've got to go out there and find a way to win those ballgames depending on what type of ballgame you're in. In the course of a long season you're going to see everything, so these guys are doing a good job."

Josh Liebeskind is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.