What it means: That all the worry from earlier in the week, when the Yankees lost four of six games at home, may be forgotten by the time the Seattle Mariners leave town Sunday night. Tonight's 6-3 victory was one of the easiest of the season, against a punchless team with no regular in the lineup hitting above .260. (Trayvon Robinson came in hitting .400 -- in 10 big-league at-bats).
Reunited and it feels so goooood: Starting his playoff preparations two months in advance, Joe Girardi finally had his ace, CC Sabathia, throw to his starting catcher, Russell Martin, for the first time in nearly four months, a span of 16 starts. The couple was so happy to be back together that Sabathia retired the first 10 Mariners of the game, until Casper Wells lost a first-pitch fastball beyond the left-field fence to cut the Yankees' lead to 2-1. Sabathia then retired the next 12 before Miguel Olivo doubled with one out in the eighth.
Completely dominant: Sabathia pitched his second complete game of the season, starting the ninth inning after allowing just two hits and striking out 10 in the first eight frames. But after he walked the leadoff hitter and gave up a long home run to Dustin Ackley to cut the lead to 6-3, Girardi paid him a visit on the mound. To the surprise of everyone in the park, he returned without his ace as Sabathia apparently talked him out of it, and retired the final three hitters in probably his best performance of the season. Maybe Chris Stewart was the problem all along.
Porch swing: Eric Chavez was the latest beneficiary of the tantalizingly close right-field wall at Yankee Stadium 3.0. His high fly dropped a row or two behind the fence with Raul Ibanez aboard to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead in the sixth. Chavez's 10th of the year also extended the Yankees' streak to 21 straight home games with a HR, second-longest in team history. ('63 team had 23 straight.)
Lineup shakeup: Girardi reshuffled his deck for this one, moving his HR leader, Curtis Granderson, to the leadoff spot, and dropping Derek Jeter to second, because, he said, he did not want to stack his lefties in the middle of the batting order. His move paid off in the third when Granderson singled in the Yankees' first two runs of the game.
Captain Hustle: Jeter somehow turned a comebacker that glanced off Kevin Millwood's right hand and rolled past shortstop Brendan Ryan into a heads-up fifth-inning double, legging it into second when he realized the center fielder would never get to the slow roller in time.
Century mark: Mariners reliever Carter Capps made his major-league debut in relief of Millwood in the seventh inning, and started off with a bang: His first pitch in the big leagues was clocked at 100 mph. The fourth pitch of his career came in at 101. Martin smacked it into center for a single. Martin came around to score on Robby Cano's single off ex-Met Oliver Perez. The only out Capps got was on Jeter's sac bunt.
Another fine mess, Ollie: New uniform, same story for Perez, who allowed RBI singles to Cano and Ibanez in his 2/3 of an inning, saddling Capps with a 54.00 ERA in his first outing.
Tomorrow: Hiroki Kuroda (10-7, 3.28) faces RHP Felix Hernandez (9-7, 2.79) in the second game of this three-game series, first pitch at 1:05 p.m.