Yankees in Seattle down, but far from out

07/23/2012 12:57 PM ET
By Jon Lane

Rafael Soriano stands in disbelief as Seth Smith rounds the bases in the ninth on Sunday.(AP)
The Yankees arrived to Oakland a freight train winning eight out of 10 and destined to capture the AL East flag with time to spare.

They left Oakland en route to Seattle after losing four straight one-run games, three in walk-off fashion, the last during which they gave up a lead, saw Rafael Soriano blow only his second save in 26 opportunities and lost it in the 12th.

Just like that, the Yankees lead the Orioles, winners of five in a row, by six games and are looking to avoid their longest losing streak since dropping six straight from May 11-16, a time when many thought the season was already over. The Yankees answered with a 10-game win streak and went 36-23 prior to their west coast trip, so of course there are those demanding drastic changes by next Tuesday’s MLB non-waiver trade deadline, never mind that New York still owns baseball’s best record.

It’s the sins of human nature to either panic too soon or bask in victory before crossing the finish line, neglecting that the tortoise remains on your tail. Every team in existence goes through peaks and valleys big and small, and there’s also the minute detail that the opponent can play the game too. The A’s are no longer pushovers. They’re 14-2 in July, and lead the AL in ERA (2.27) and the Majors in walk-off wins (11).

All this must sound familiar to Yankees fans. If you somehow don’t recall, look up what they accomplished the month before. Yankees players remember the June experienced and got a taste of a hot team after traveling 3,000 miles.

"We ran into a green machine over there," said Alex Rodriguez. "Those guys are playing good baseball. Everything they are doing is working well. They got an infield hit and a one-out sacrifice, which you don't see very often, and a first-pitch base hit. That kind of epitomizes the way they are going."

On paper the Seattle Mariners (42-55) are not a good team. They trail only Oakland in hitting (.231) and their team ERA of 3.86 resides in the middle of the pack. The Mariners, though, return home following a 5-2 road trip, batting.325 with 31 runs scored in the first four games, took two of three from the Yankees’ division rivals in St. Petersburg, and are 6-4 since the All-Star break. Old friend Jesus Montero (.394) has stepped up in the second half and went 12-for-26 (.462) with nine RBIs on the trip.

Keep a particular eye on Tuesday’s matchup between Felix Hernandez and Freddy Garcia. King Felix is King Felix, posting a remarkable 4-0, 1.37 ledger in his last seven starts and a 2.23 ERA in 10 starts at Safeco Field. Garcia hasn’t been miserable like he was in April. At best he’s been the definition of a fifth starter since Andy Pettitte went down, but he could be looking at an eventual return to relief work. David Phelps was razor-sharp in relief on Sunday (five strikeouts in 1.2 innings pitched) and may earn his way into the starting five once Joba Chamberlain returns to the team.

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