Yanks lose more ground in loss

September 7, 2008 5:39:11 PM PDT
The Yankees just found out what $209 million can buy: Fourth place. Jose Lopez hit two homers, Ryan Feierabend went from idle to impressive and the Seattle Mariners sent the New York Yankees tumbling into fourth with a 5-2 victory on Sunday.

"It's not something we imagined," leadoff man Johnny Damon said after he went 0-for-4. "The only way for us to deserve to move up in the standings is to play better. And we have not done that."

The team that has made the postseason for 13 consecutive years trails the Red Sox by 8½ games in the AL wild-card race with 19 games remaining. More tellingly, they fell into fourth in the AL East behind Toronto, which beat Tampa Bay 1-0.

The Yankees, again owners of baseball's highest payroll on opening day this season, haven't been this low in the division after an All-Star break since 1995. That was the last time they were home for the playoffs.

It's looking like time for them to fire up the TVs and dust off the couches for this October.

"There are 19 games left, and we have to win most of them.

Maybe all of them," manager Joe Girardi said, flatly.

Lopez's liner just over the wall in left field gave the AL's worst team a 3-2 lead in the fourth off Mike Mussina (17-8).

Mussina allowed four runs and seven hits in six innings and made a key error - his first in three years - that led to the Mariners' fourth run.

Lopez added another homer in the eighth off Jose Veras for his first multi-homer game.

One of the only remaining dramas of the Yankees' season is whether Mussina, who struck out seven and walked one, will win 20 games for the first time in his 18 seasons. He will get at least three more starts.

The Yankees had two on and one out in the ninth against J.J.

Putz. But Putz struck out a flailing Robinson Cano and then pinch-hitter Wilson Betemit for his 12th save in 20 chances.

The Yankees were done in by the 23-year-old Feierabend. He showed up to work Sunday, ate an early breakfast and was headed to the bullpen for a between-starts session, thinking he wasn't going to pitch until Wednesday. Then Carlos Silva told the Mariners he couldn't start because of sharp pains in his upper back.

Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre asked Feierabend, who last pitched on Tuesday and gave up 11 hits and five runs at Texas, if he wanted to start.

"I said, 'What are you talking about?"' Feierabend said.

After a rushed review of a scouting report, Feierabend (1-2) allowed just five hits - including solo home runs by Derek Jeter and Xavier Nady early - in seven innings for his second win in 11 career decisions.

Alex Rodriguez was 0-for-10 with two walks in this series, which New York lost to keep them without a series win in Seattle since Aug. 13-15, 2004.

Rodriguez got picked off first base to kill a rally when he got tricked by a rookie first baseman.

With New York trailing 3-2 in the fifth, Rodriguez walked with two outs and Jeter already at second. First baseman Bryan LaHair, who has played with lefty Feierabend for years in the minor leagues, noticed Rodriguez took a large secondary lead as soon as Feierabend lifted his leg to start his first pitch. So LaHair, playing behind the bag, flashed a familiar signal to his buddy for a backdoor pickoff play.

Rodriguez was caught so far off first base, his only play was to run to second. That forced Jeter toward third. In the ensuing rundown, LaHair threw to third base and Beltre ran down Jeter to end the inning.

"It's a play I use ... if I've got a good feel the base runner is not paying attention," LaHair said. "I just knew on the next pitch he was dead."

LaHair estimates he's been successful all but once in the 30 times he's tried the play with Feierabend.

Rodriguez, the former Mariners star still lustily booed here for leaving town for a mammoth contract in Texas after the 2000 season, is 4-for-33 (.121) in his last 10 games in Seattle.

He's still looking for Feierabend's move.

"Seriously, that was a great play," Rodriguez said. "To this moment, I haven't seen him throw the ball to first yet."

In the third, Jeter singled to tie Babe Ruth for second on the Yankees' all-time hit list. It was Jeter's 2,518th hit. Lou Gehrig had 2,721 hits for New York.

Jeter's home run in the first was his 205th, tying him for 11th on the Yankees' list with Dave Winfield and Rodriguez. It was also Jeter's 1,000th RBI, joining 10 other former Yankees with at least that many.

Jeter initially said he had "no idea" of the milestones because he's just trying to win games, then added he was honored to be in such company.

"He just keeps climbing that ladder and he's passing very impressive people," Girardi said.

If only the Yankees could pass some teams in the standings.

Note: Beltre's HR was his second in four at-bats against Mussina, dating to May 24.