Though various ailments slowed down some players during interleague contests, the Yankees are surging as they try to extend an eight-game home winning streak versus the Mariners in the opener of a three-game set Tuesday night.
The Yankees (43-32) beat the crosstown rival Mets 4-2 on Sunday for their fifth straight victory. They also finished a 9-6 stretch against the NL, and matched their high-water mark for the season at 11 games above .500.
New York remains on a roll despite contending with a flu bug that made its way around the clubhouse. Shortstop Derek Jeter(notes) returned to the Yankees’ lineup Sunday after missing two games with a fever.
Left fielder Johnny Damon(notes) has missed two straight games due to illness, but is expected to start the opener against Seattle (39-36). Designated hitter Hideki Matsui(notes) should also be back in the starting lineup after a stretch of nine straight games in NL parks.
Matsui’s surgically repaired knees have kept him out of the outfield, but he doesn’t expect rust to be a problem. He’s 1 for 5 with two walks as a pinch hitter since his last start, June 18 against Washington.
“It’s not like I was sitting on the bench the whole time,” Matsui said through an interpreter.
Matsui is batting .556 (10 for 18) with six RBIs in his last five home games against Seattle, and he’s hardly the only Yankee that has had success in this series at New York.
The Yankees are batting .348 while averaging 9.0 runs during an eight-game winning streak at home versus the Mariners, but this will be the teams’ first meeting at the new Yankee Stadium. New York has also pitched well during that streak, posting a 2.75 ERA, and it will now send Joba Chamberlain(notes) (4-2, 3.81 ERA) to the mound.
Chamberlain earned a win in his last outing, giving up three runs - two earned - and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings of New York’s 8-4 victory at Atlanta on Wednesday night. This will be the right-hander’s first start against the Mariners.
Mariano Rivera(notes), who earned a save in Chamberlain’s last start, became the second reliever to reach 500 in Sunday’s game. Rivera, who also had his first career RBI on a bases-loaded walk in the ninth, joined Milwaukee’s Trevor Hoffman(notes) (571) as the only major leaguers with 500 saves.
Brandon Morrow(notes) (0-3, 5.64), who has 16 saves for Seattle over the past two seasons, continues to make his transition to the starting rotation. He is making his fourth straight start after 16 relief appearances, posting a 4.50 ERA without receiving a decision in his new role.
Morrow gave up three runs and six hits in five innings of the Mariners’ 4-3 win over San Diego on Wednesday night.
The right-hander was impressive in his one career start against the Yankees, limiting them to one run, one hit and three walks while striking out eight in 7 2-3 innings of a 3-1 victory in Seattle last Sept. 5.
Morrow will not have two-time Gold Glove third baseman Adrian Beltre(notes) backing him up. Beltre is expected to miss six to eight weeks following surgery to remove bone spurs from his left shoulder.
Beltre played the final two games of a three-game weekend series with the Los Angeles Dodgers after his decision to have surgery, and made an exceptional play in the hole to take away a base hit in Seattle’s 4-2 win Sunday.
Sunday’s win was the second straight and ninth in 12 games for Seattle.