Greg Bird reached base three times in his long-awaited return to the Yankees' lineup and Jacoby Ellsbury homered and drove in four runs, leading Sonny Gray and New York over the Seattle Mariners 6-3 Saturday.
Bird singled, walked twice and scored in his first game since May 1. Hobbled by ankle and foot problems, the young first baseman could provide a spark - after his hit, the Yankee Stadium sound system played the theme song from '70s sitcom "Welcome Back, Kotter."
Ellsbury hit a three-run homer and an RBI single. Relegated to a role of a fourth outfielder during an injury-slowed season, he connected off Yovani Gallardo (5-10) in a matchup of playoff contenders.
Gray (8-8) went seven innings and allowed one run on three hits, including a homer by Carlos Ruiz. It was the 11th straight start Gray hasn't permitted more than two earned runs, the best string by anyone in the majors this year. Five of those games have come since he was traded from Oakland to the Yankees on July 31.
Pitching with "Pickles" on the back of his jersey, Gray struck out nine. In his previous outing, he threw five innings against Boston in his first career appearance without fanning anyone.
The "Pickles" was part of Players Weekend, where nicknames and colorful gear were encouraged by Major League Baseball to help attract younger fans. Gray does like pickles, but the name came from his teammates in Oakland - they noticed he often seemed to pitch on days when the A's wore their alternate green uniforms.
Starlin Castro hit a two-run single in the seventh for a 6-1 lead.
Kyle Seager and Guillermo Heredia had RBI singles in the Seattle eighth. Pinch-hitter Robinson Cano grounded out against Tommy Kahnle to end the inning.
Dellin Betances pitched the ninth for his 10th save.
Mariners: Cano didn't start for the second straight game because of tightness in his left hamstring. He played second base after batting.
Yankees: Bird, activated from the 60-day disabled list, also was thrown out trying to score on Ellsbury's single. The 24-year-old hit eight homers in spring training, tied for the most in the majors, but fouled a ball off his right ankle shortly before opening day and got off to a slow start. He had a bone removed from his right foot during his recovery. "It's been a long interesting, unique journey," Bird said. "We weren't sure about him," manager Joe Girardi said, adding, "we feel like we're getting a healthy player back ... With Bird at first, Chase Headley shifted from 1B back to start at 3B for the first time since the Yankees traded for Todd Frazier.
Mariners: LHP Andrew Albers (2-0, 3.60 ERA) makes his third start for Seattle. The 31-year-old was 12-3 in Triple-A when Atlanta traded him this month for cash.
Yankees: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (9-10, 4.86) is 0-6 with an 11.81 ERA in seven day starts this year and 9-4 with a 3.24 ERA in 17 games at night. He makes his 100th career start in the majors Sunday and is 48-26 so far.