Yankee batter after Yankee batter looked helpless as they flailed at curveballs from Roenis Elias.
In the end, he had struck out eight Yankees on curveballs and 12 overall in a 4-2 win by the Mariners Thursday night.
The Yankees thought they caught a break not facing Felix Hernandez, who was scheduled to start before Wednesday’s rainout. Then they ran into a left-hander who they had never seen before.
It looked promising for the Yankees when Jacoby Ellsbury led off with his first home run. It was the Yankees’ first leadoff homer since Aug. 21, 2012 when Derek Jeter did it in Chicago, but after that it was lights out.
“He was good,” Carlos Beltran said. “Anytime you’ve never faced a guy, you don’t know what you’re going to get from him. He was able to pitch in and out. We basically couldn’t do nothing against him.”
Elias was so good against the Yankees that he threw the curveball 41 times, getting 17 swings and misses. The Yankees saw 110 pitches from him and swung and missed 44 times while getting six hits. They had no extra-base hits after Ellsbury’s home run.
Jeter struck out twice on the curve and three times overall, while Ellsbury fanned twice on the pitch after homering.
“He was better than us today,” Jeter said.
That might have been the understatement of the night for the Yankees, who heard some boos toward the end of their 12th loss.
Elias became another Cuban defector to have a big night in New York. Last year, Yasiel Puig, Jose Iglesias and Leonys Martin played well in Yankee Stadium while Yoenis Cespedes won the Home Run Derby at Citi Field.
“I thought he mixed his curveball and fastball effectively,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He had a number of strikeouts on his curveball against us tonight.”
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Elias was the second opposing rookie to have a double-digit strikeout game in his Yankee Stadium debut. The other was Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore, who fanned 11 Yankees on Sept. 22, 2011.
When it was apparent the Yankees couldn’t touch Elias most of the night and hit into two rally-killing doubles plays in the second and third, that meant Hiroki Kuroda was in for a tough loss.
After getting torched for eight runs in 4 2/3 innings during Friday’s 13-1 loss to Anaheim, Kuroda allowed four runs (three earned) and seven hits over six innings.
He gave up an RBI double to Robinson Cano in the first and a run-scoring groundout to the second baseman following a Jeter error in the third. In the fourth he allowed an RBI single to Brad Miller and a run-scoring double to Michael Saunders before retiring the final seven hitters of a 94-pitch night.
“He didn’t pitch horribly tonight,” Girardi said. “I thought tonight was an improvement. I think it’s a step in the right direction.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.