With their playoff hopes dwindling quickly, the New York Yankees can’t afford to come up short against novice major league starting pitchers.
After narrowly avoiding being no-hit by one of Seattle’s top prospects, the Yankees look to avoid stumbling again against a young Mariners pitcher when the teams play the middle game of their series Saturday night.
New York (75-66), 11 games behind AL East-leading Tampa Bay and 8 1/2 back of Boston in the wild-card race, needs an outstanding final month and some help to have any chance of making its 14th straight playoff appearance. Losing to lowly Seattle (55-85) and an inexperienced pitcher isn’t going to aid the Yankees’ cause.
Seattle’s Brandon Morrow was bidding to become the second pitcher in modern history to throw a no-hitter in his first major league start, but Wilson Betemit ended his hopes with a double with two outs in the eighth inning of the Mariners’ 3-1 win over the Yankees on Friday night.
“We need wins. Losses aren’t helping right now,” Yankees starter Andy Pettitte said. “We’re running out of options here.”
Morrow, Seattle’s first-round pick in 2006, had made 100 previous appearances, but all of them were in relief.
It was a troubling sign for a veteran Yankees team that had averaged nine runs while winning its previous eight games versus the Mariners. Seattle’s staff ERA this season is 4.63.
New York will be trying to bounce back against another pitcher it has yet to see as a starter.
Ryan Rowland-Smith (4-2, 3.56 ERA) has made four relief appearances versus the Yankees, giving up five runs in 3 2-3 innings.
The 25-year-old left-hander will be making his sixth straight start and the eighth of his career. He is 2-1 with a 1.77 ERA in his last three outings.
Rowland-Smith gave up two runs - one earned - and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings as Seattle beat Cleveland 6-4 on Sunday.
Matt Tuiasosopo, another Mariners prospect, may be back at third base after a successful major league debut. Tuiasosopo, Seattle’s third-round pick in 2004, went 1-for-4 with a double that helped set up two runs Friday night.
He hit .281 with 13 home runs, 32 doubles and 73 RBIs in 111 games for Triple-A Tacoma this season.
“I never put a timeline on myself,” Tuiasosopo told the Mariners’ official Web site, “but it definitely feels good to be up here.”
Seattle, which was coming off a 1-0 loss to Texas on Wednesday, will now face struggling veteran Sidney Ponson (7-5, 5.13 ERA), who is 0-3 with an 8.75 ERA in his last five starts.
The right-hander lasted only three innings in his last outing, allowing seven runs - six earned - and nine hits against Detroit on Monday, but New York won 13-9.
Ponson is 3-4 with a 4.54 ERA in 12 starts and one relief appearance versus Seattle. Ichiro Suzuki is batting .556 (10-for-18) against him.