Yanks' steady charge backs Garcia's 150th win

Yanks' steady charge backs Garcia's 150th win

Yanks' steady charge backs Garcia's 150th win
NEW YORK -- For all of the counts Freddy Garcia fell behind and all of the runners he put on base, Chris Stewart never worried about the right-hander from behind the plate.

"That's just what he does," Stewart said. "He gets guys on base and he gets out of it."

Garcia did it enough on Sunday in a 6-2 win over the Mariners to earn the 150th victory of his career and become the first Venezuelan pitcher to reach that mark, as the Yankees took a three-game series at Yankee Stadium against the team for which Garcia earned more than half of those wins.

Garcia did it by teetering through a Mariners lineup that greeted him with a first-inning run but did not score again until the fifth. There was only one 1-2-3 inning (the fourth) for Garcia, who allowed five hits -- three in the first inning -- and walked four batters -- all with two outs -- but consistently stranded them on base over his five innings.

"I think it's just a mentality he has," said manager Joe Girardi. "He's not afraid to be behind in the count. He's not afraid to throw his offspeed [pitches] behind in the count. He doesn't give in."

Garcia had a lead after two innings, even after giving up the run in the first.

Dustin Ackley sent Garcia's first pitch of the game into right field, then scored two batters later when former Yankees prospect Jesus Montero singled to right. The Mariners looked poised to score again when Kyle Seager recorded another hit, but right fielder Nick Swisher came up throwing home from right field and got Montero, who ran through a stop sign from third-base coach Jeff Datz.

"If I put my feet to home plate, I'm safe," Montero said, "but he tagged my hands."

It was the first contribution on a day full of them for Stewart, who went 2-for-3 with a single, a double, a stolen base and three runs scored.

The first of those runs came in the second inning, when the Yankees gave Garcia a lead to work with against starter Hisashi Iwakuma before they continued to add on.

A day after ace Felix Hernandez pounded the strike zone, blanking the Yankees on two hits, Iwakuma could hardly find it. The right-hander threw first-pitch strikes to only 11 of the 26 batters he faced in his five innings.

"I think his big thing is trying to get guys to chase his sliders and his splitters, and fortunately, we were able to get him up and put good swings on the strikes that he threw," Stewart said.

Once Iwakuma was out of the game, New York continued to score against the Seattle bullpen. Josh Kinney got into trouble in the sixth, walking Stewart and surrendering a single to Curtis Granderson before giving way to Oliver Perez.

The left-hander intentionally walked Mark Teixeira to set up a matchup with the left-handed-hitting Raul Ibanez, who said that "for a moment," he savored the fact that his former team wanted to face him with the bases loaded rather than Teixeira.

"The quicker you can let that go and can just focus on putting an at-bat together and hitting the ball hard, the better off you are," Ibanez said.

Ibanez put together that at-bat, falling behind Perez, 1-2, before working the count full and sending a single the opposite way, one inning after he sent an Iwakuma offering sailing over the Yankees' bullpen for his 15th home run of the season.

The Yankees manufactured the rest of their runs against Iwakuma. Singles by Stewart and Derek Jeter put up a run in the fourth. In the second inning, a Stewart double and hard-hit grounder that Granderson sent through Ackley's legs at first base for an error gave the Yankees their first lead. And Teixeira started the scoring in the first, legging out an infield single to drive in Jeter with a grounder to Seager, who was playing deep in an overshift against Teixeira.

It was a quick response to Seattle's immediate 1-0 lead that allowed Stewart to remain worry-free behind the plate, even while Garcia consistently put men on base.

But the 35-year-old right-hander kept New York in the game -- exactly what Girardi said the crafty veteran did last season en route to a 12-8 record and a 3.62 ERA, and exactly what he's done in seven starts since returning to the rotation this year with a 3.95 ERA.

"You see me out there; I was walking around and trying to figure it out," Garcia said. "After the second inning, I got two outs every inning and couldn't throw strikes. Every inning, two outs and I'd throw a slider, fastball, changeup and couldn't get a good feel of any pitch. I just battled all day."

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