Instead, the deep fly landed in center fielder Ichiro Suzuki’s glove and reminded Ramirez how thankful he is to pitch at spacious Safeco Field.
Ramirez pitched effectively into the seventh inning before four relievers stymied New York the rest of the way, and the Seattle Mariners edged the Yankees 2-1 on Sunday.
The loss left New York a season-high eight games behind first-place Boston in the AL East.
Ramirez (3-2) improved to 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA in three starts at home this season. He is 0-2 with a 13.17 ERA on the road.
Why the difference?
“The dimensions,” Ramirez said. “I like that Alex can hit the ball pretty good to right-center and Ichiro caught it on the warning track.
“I wish I could pitch every game here.”
Rodriguez’s near miss in the sixth inning came one pitch after Derek Jeter’s RBI single pulled the Yankees to 2-1. It also typified their offensive struggles of late.
“We need to get the swagger back, so to speak, and start playing and winning more regularly,” manager Joe Torre said.
Ramirez tossed 6 1-3 innings, allowing five hits and one run. He struck out only one, getting Robinson Cano looking at a called third strike leading off the sixth. But 14 of the 19 outs Ramirez got came on groundballs, and he was rarely hit hard.
He was among the Seattle lefties to fluster the Yankees (17-19) during the three-game set. New York scored only one run and hit .171 in 20 2-3 innings against Seattle’s left-handed pitching. The Mariners improved to 4-3 against the Yankees this year.
“If our offense had shown up at anytime in this series, things might have been different,” New York’s Johnny Damon said.
Chris Reitsma, George Sherrill and rookie Brandon Morrow combined to get five outs, with Morrow striking out Rodriguez on a 3-2 fastball with two on to end the eighth. J.J. Putz fanned three in the ninth for his ninth save in nine attempts.
Matsui doubled with one out, but Putz struck out Posada and Doug Mientkiewicz to end it.
“Morrow got a big out and then J.J. scared us all to death and did his job,” Seattle manager Mike Hargrove said. “It was a good win against an awfully good ballclub.”
Seattle pieced together just enough offense to take two of three in the series, never scoring more than three runs in any game. Raul Ibanez had an RBI single in the third and Jose Lopez’s sacrifice fly an inning later provided all the offense Ramirez needed.
Andy Pettitte pitched well for the third straight start but got little backing from New York’s offense, which scored seven runs on Saturday night.
Pettitte (2-2) pitched 7 1-3 innings, scattering nine hits and striking out two. His only mistakes came in the third and fourth. Seattle got three consecutive hits in the third, capped by Ibanez’s RBI single to score Suzuki. In the fourth, Jose Guillen led off with a double just out of the reach of Damon in center and scored on Lopez’s fly to deep left.
Ramirez was even better. He didn’t allow a baserunner until the fourth, when Bobby Abreu walked with one out. After Jeter flied out, Rodriguez singled for the Yankees’ first hit. Ramirez got Jason Giambi to ground out to end the inning.
“He gave us some great pitches to hit,” Rodriguez said. “A guy like Ramirez, you feel like you want to score four or five runs.”
Damon got New York’s second hit with one out in the sixth. He stole second and Jeter drove him in by lining a 3-0 pitch into left field. Rodriguez then drove Ramirez’s next delivery to the wall in right-center.
Reitsma entered with one out and runners on first and second, but got pinch-hitter Mientkiewicz to ground into a 3-6-3 double play to end the threat.
Seattle acquired RHP Jason Davis from Cleveland for a player to be named. … Torre plans to use Monday’s off day to visit his ill brother, Frank, in New York. The Yankees open a three-game set Tuesday in Chicago. … Giambi is hitless in his last 18 at-bats. … Seattle utility man Willie Bloomquist was not at the game because he was awaiting the birth of his second child. … Many players from both teams used pink bats on Mother’s Day that will be auctioned for charity. Yankees reliever Mike Myers also had a pink glove.