Yankees-Mariners Preview


Raul Ibanez was beginning to develop a knack for hitting the New York Yankees hard before joining them in 2012.

He picked up right where he left off the first time he faced his former team earlier this season.

The Seattle Mariners hope to see more of the same from Ibanez when they begin a four-game set with visiting New York on Thursday night.

Ibanez, in his third stint with Seattle, hit 19 home runs for the Yankees last season, then led the way for the Mariners as they took two of three in New York from May 14-16, homering three times and driving in eight runs.

The 41-year-old outfielder owns an OPS of 1.187 with six home runs and 18 RBIs over his last 11 games against the Yankees dating to Sept. 6, 2008, when he was in his second tenure with the Mariners.

Ibanez homered Monday and Tuesday while helping Seattle (26-34) to wins over the White Sox and was 1 for 6 on Wednesday in a 7-5, 16-inning loss.

The Mariners answered Chicago's five runs in the top of the 14th with five in the bottom half before yielding two more in the 16th. It marked the first time in major league history that each team scored five or more runs in a game when it was scoreless through nine.

The Yankees, meanwhile, hope Travis Hafner will keep providing pop at the plate. He homered in Monday's 7-4 victory over Cleveland and added his 10th on Wednesday as New York (34-25) won 6-4 to complete a three-game sweep.

Hafner has hit safely in 20 of his last 22 games against Seattle while slugging .651 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs. The Mariners hope to match that power with the return of their own slugger, Michael Morse, who missed his eighth straight game Wednesday with a strained right quadriceps muscle.

Tied with Ibanez for the team lead in home runs with 11, Morse is expected back in the lineup Thursday, according to manager Eric Wedge.

"He's champing at the bit," Wedge, who hasn't decided if Morse would be the designated hitter or play first base, told the team's official website. "It's most definitely not going to be the outfield. We'll see how today goes and then decide."

Morse went 7 for 12 with a home run in the teams' first series this season.

Hoping to keep Ibanez in the yard will be New York starter Phil Hughes (2-4, 5.37 ERA). He failed to do so in a 12-2 loss to Seattle on May 15, getting charged with seven runs on six hits - including an Ibanez grand slam - in two-thirds of an inning, the shortest start of his career.

Hughes also served up a grand slam to Boston's Mike Napoli in his last outing as he allowed five runs and seven hits over 4 1-3 innings in an 11-1 loss Saturday. He's allowed seven home runs in his last 23 2-3 innings.

On the hill for Seattle will be Aaron Harang (2-5, 5.82). The right-hander was 1-5 with an 8.58 ERA through his first six starts but has limited opponents to one earned run and eight hits over 15 innings in his last two outings.

Harang has given up three hits in 14 at-bats against Hafner but has never faced the Yankees in his 12-year career.

Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano is batting .337 with 23 RBIs over his last 23 games against Seattle, while Lyle Overbay - coming off the first three outfield starts of his career - is 11 for 24 with five doubles when facing Harang.