New York's star third basemen will not only be missing from the lineup today, but he may be out an extended period of time with a left calf strain. Rodriguez returned to the Yankees' lineup last night after missing the prior three games, but was pulled for a pinch-hitter after just one at-bat due to the lingering injury.
The Yankees are 10-1 when Rodriguez does not play, but last night they weren't able to get any offense going in a 6-0 blanking by Seattle.
Russell Branyan supplied the power, belting two home runs, and Felix Hernandez resumed his dominance of the Yankees, as Seattle took the opener of a three- game series.
Branyan hit a three-run blast off New York starting pitcher A.J. Burnett (9-11) in the first inning and added a solo smash in the sixth, plenty of support for Hernandez (9-10), who came into Friday's contest having notched three consecutive complete-game wins against the Yankees.
Although he didn't go the distance, Hernandez managed to limit New York to four hits over eight solid innings, finishing with three walks and 11 strikeouts. The right-hander has now held the Yankees to three runs in his last four outings versus the club.
"He did what he was supposed to do tonight, especially with a lead early," Burnett said of Hernandez. "He got ahead and put us away pretty easily."
Burnett allowed six runs on a season-high 12 hits in seven full frames.
New York remained a game ahead of Tampa Bay in the American League East. The Rays lost in Oakland later Friday.
With Rodriguez absent, the Yankees will need to rely more on their pitching and Javier Vazquez is one of those starters who needs to step up.
The veteran right-hander, however, has struggled of late, going 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA over his past four starts. On Monday, Vazquez lasted just four innings, allowing two earned runs and five hits in a 3-1 loss to Detroit. He walked four and struck out six while throwing 106 pitches.
In eight career starts versus Seattle, Vazquez owns a 4-3 record and a 3.78 ERA. He allowed just three runs in two starts against the Mariners this season, but the Yankees come up short in each of those outings.
Countering for the Mariners is Jason Vargas, who has won three consecutive starts for the first time in his career. The left-hander last made a start exactly a week ago, when he surrender three earned runs and five hits over seven innings of a 9-3 triumph at Cleveland.
Vargas last faced the Yankees on July 8th, yielding one run and nine hits over seven strong innings. He left without a decision in the team's eventual 3-1 loss. Vargas has yet to earn a decision in three career appearance versus New York.
New York and Seattle have split eight previous matchups this season.