SEATTLE - Returning from a successful trip to the East Coast, the Seattle Mariners were cruising as one of the hottest teams in baseball.
Then the Derek Jeter farewell tour rolled into Seattle and the New York Yankees found a spark against the Mariners.
Jeter had a memorable final regular season appearance in Seattle with three hits, two runs scored and two RBIs, and the Yankees completed their first three-game sweep of the season with a 6-3 win over the Mariners on Thursday night.
Jeter was honoured by the Mariners before the start of the series, then helped jump start the Yankees. Jeter had a singles in his first two at-bats off Seattle starter Roenis Elias (5-5), then greeted reliever Dominic Leone with a two-run single in the fourth that gave the Yankees a 6-1 lead.
Jeter finished the series with seven hits and left Seattle dealing with being swept for the first time since April 18-20 when it dropped three straight in Miami, part of the Mariners' early eight-game losing streak.
"We had good at-bats tonight, swung the bats pretty darn good," Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. "We just didn't have a lot of positive results."
Jacoby Ellsbury hit a two-run homer in the first inning to extend his hitting streak to 16 games and gave starter Chase Whitley (2-0) an early lead.
But this night, and much of the series, was about Jeter's farewell tour. His professional start came in Seattle in May 1995 so returning to the Pacific Northwest held extra meaning than some of the other farewells Jeter will make this season. He was given thundering ovations every time he stepped to the plate.
Jeter's received a standing ovation from the entire stadium on his final at-bat in the ninth. He grounded out on a comebacker to the mound and tipped his helmet as jogged of the field.
"It's still hard to think I'm not going to play another game here but when you come to some of these cities you start thinking about a lot of the memories you've had here," Jeter said. "Seattle will always be special because it was the beginning."
One bright spot for Seattle was Logan Morrison. Activated from the disabled list on Wednesday, Morrison hit his first home run with a line drive solo shot in the second inning off Whitley. Morrison added an RBI double in the ninth.
"I got lucky and snuck it out," Morrison said of the homer. "It was where I was looking for it, up, middle. I didn't know it was a slider until I was already swinging."
Both times Seattle was on the verge of a rally it could not get a two-out hit. The Mariners had runners at the corners in the third but Kyle Seager struck out looking on an inside fastball. In the fifth, James Jones chopped two-out single to score Brad Miller. Robinson Cano then drove the first pitch from Whitley to deep left-centre, only to watch Ellsbury jump and haul in the drive crashing into the wall.
Two innings later, after Ellsbury left with tightness in his right hip, Brett Gardner added another defensive gem, hauling in Mike Zunino's drive at the top of the fence in left-centre to take away extra bases.
Whitley threw a career-high 7 2-3 innings getting his second straight win. He struck out six and has not walked a batter in his past four starts.
"They were making good plays out there, keeping the ball in the yard and saving their guy some runs," Zunino said. "That's all you can do is try and square the ball up."
Elias had the shortest outing of his career going 3 1-3 innings. Dominic Leone took over and was able to jam Jeter on an inside fastball. But Jeter got just enough to drive it over the infield and into right for a two-run single and a 6-1 New York lead.
"I just left a few pitches out over the plate," Elias said through an interpreter. "I felt good out there, just made some bad pitches."
NOTES: Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist Macklemore threw out the first pitch on the night he was honoured by the Mariners with a bobblehead. ... Yankees are 17-10 in their last 27 road games. ... Whitley has gone 114 consecutive batters without issuing a walk.
© Coast Reporter