The Yankees did not beat Felix Hernandez but enough circumstances went in their favor to limit their exposure to him for only six innings.
And once he was gone Lyle Overbay lifted a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning to provide the go-ahead run in last night’s 4-3 victory over the Mariners.
Hernandez seemed to struggle after his right foot collided with Overbay in the fourth. The injury seemed to resurface when Hernandez was seen mouthing “ouch, ouch” on television replays following a ground ball by Curtis Granderson.
Despite staying in, the Yankees finally scored off Hernandez as Overbay roped a double off the top of the right field wall. Hernandez’s final pitch was a long flyout to Ichiro at the right-center field warning track.
Seattle manager Eric Wedge said it was a minor back issue that occurred not on the collision with Overbay, but when Hernandez turned to throw to second base on Granderson’s grounder.
“I’m hoping that he’s fine and I think he will be fine,” Wedge said. “When you tweak something like that on a play, which means you did something to it on a play, what you don’t want to have happen is send him back out there.
“He starts compromising things, then you change your delivery and you have a chance of doing something else that’s even more serious. I wasn’t going to take that chance.”
Had the injury not occurred, it seemed that despite putting some pressure on him, the Yankees would have dropped to 2-8 against Hernandez in their last 11 encounters.
“We had some chances off him but he basically did what he usually does,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I like the pressure that we put on him, but I think he actually left because of the leg. He was only around 90 pitches and that’s a guy who not’s afraid to throw [more]. That changeup and all the swing and miss stuff makes it pretty tough to score off him.”
The next time a Yankee hit a ball well was against Charlie Furbush in the seventh when Robinson Cano stepped in. Cano fell behind 1-2 but he did not miss on a 3-2 slider, crushing it to just in front of the wall in right-center field for a game-tying double.
“Robby got us going,” Overbay said. “He puts us on his back and lets it ride after that.”
After the Mariners intentionally walked Vernon Wells and unintentionally walked Curtis Granderson, Overbay lifted a full-count fastball to center field and Cano scored.
It was Overbay’s fifth go-ahead RBI, tying him with Wells for the team lead. Both were considered castoffs and the moves were decried by many Yankee fans late in spring training.
“He’s had so many big hits and RBI for us,” Girardi said. “He’s been really good. We managed to play him almost every day. I feel good about him whenever he’s at the plate. I really do.”
The Yankees won for the seventh time in eight games, improved to 24-10 since a 1-4 start and 16-5 in games decided by two runs or less.
Tuesday’s win came on a night when CC Sabathia turned in an uneven performance. Sabathia allowed a two-run home run to Raul Ibanez among 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings but also prevented more runs from scoring by striking out 10.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.