Whether it was Hisashi Iwakuma or Josh Kinney, Seattle's pitchers kept successfully working themselves out of jams most of the day.
Until Shawn Kelley threw a slider that got a bit too much of the plate.
"I'd thrown a handful of sliders there before, but with the bases loaded you can't walk in the tying run," Kelley said. "I figured throw my best pitch in the bottom of the zone and he got me."
Pinch-hitter Jayson Nix lined a three-run double off Kelley in the eighth inning and the New York Yankees rallied for the 5-2 win over the Mariners on Wednesday.
After the Yankees failed to come through with runners in scoring position earlier in the game, Nix finally produced a clutch hit. Kelley hung the slider over the middle of the plate and Nix's liner scored Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira. It was Nix's first hit in eight at-bats during the trip and salvaged a 2-5 West Coast swing for the AL East leaders.
The Mariners missed their chance at a third straight series victory because their offense disappeared after the first inning. The textbook start to the game saw Seattle use a pair of hits, a pair of walks and an infield groundout to take a 2-1 lead.
But after Jesus Montero's broken-bat single in the first, Seattle didn't collect another hit until Casper Wells' single with two outs in the ninth off closer Rafael Soriano. While the Mariners did get baserunners thanks to the wildness of New York starter Ivan Nova and his six walks, they also put a significant amount of pressure on their staff to make a one-run lead stand.
The Mariners' arms simply couldn't hold up.
"You're asking a lot out of your pitching staff to hold those guys down for that many innings," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "We almost squeezed by ... but ultimately you just can't play it that tight against a veteran offensive club like that. They really stepped up there in the eighth inning."
Nix was called on to pinch hit for Raul Ibanez, who was 0 for 3 on the day. Seattle countered with Kelley out of the bullpen after reliever Josh Kinney opened the inning by hitting Jeter on the thigh, and Lucas Luetge (1-1) loaded the bases with singles to Cano and Teixeira.
Luetge got Curtis Granderson to foul out behind third for the first out. Once Nix was announced as the pinch hitter, Wedge called on Kelley, who has now allowed runs in three of his last four appearances. Russell Martin added a two-out RBI single off Kelley, who finally escaped the inning by getting Ichiro Suzuki to ground out.
Nix is 2 for 3 this season as a pinch hitter. Jeter added a first-inning solo homer off Iwakuma.
David Phelps (2-3) threw 1 1-3 innings of relief and struck out a pair, but the entire Yankees pitching staff held Seattle's meager offense in check. Nova struggled with his control but gave up just two hits. Clay Rapada and Phelps bridged the sixth and seventh innings, David Robertson cruised through the eighth and Soriano pitched the ninth for his 26th save in 28 chances.
"After losing five games by a total of six runs, to be able to win a series going into an off day was important," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Two-and-five is not what we want on a road trip, but we won the second series and it'll be a happier flight home."
Both Seattle runs scored in the first on Kyle Seager's 10-pitch, bases-loaded walk and Mike Carp's fielder's choice. Otherwise, the opportunities were scarce.
"We hit the ball hard a few times, just right at the wrong guys," Carp said. "Sometimes you do the right things and don't get rewarded."
Seattle honored Yankees outfielder Ichiro Suzuki before his first at-bat. With Suzuki back in the leadoff spot on Wednesday, the Mariners played a video montage of Suzuki highlights before flashing up the message "Ichiro: Thanks for all the thrills." Suzuki acknowledged the standing ovation, tipping his helmet around the stadium before grounding out to second.
Wednesday could be Suzuki's final appearance in Seattle. His contract expires after the season and the Yankees do not make another trip to the Pacific Northwest in 2012.
"I didn't really show it but inside I was going through some emotional times, but it was very special these last few days. Definitely emotional inside," Suzuki said through his interpreter.