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NYY@SEA: Ichiro's grounder gives Mariners the lead

SEATTLE -- On a night that matched the power of Michael Pineda against the most prodigious offense in the Major Leagues, the Mariners somehow wound up beating the Yankees with a flurry of infield ground balls.

In a 4-3 victory over the Bronx Bombers at Safeco Field, Seattle scored all its runs on infield outs, winning despite an 0-for-8 effort with runners in scoring position.

That's no easy feat, but neither is pulling even at .500 for a Mariners club that started the season 4-11 and has since gathered steam by winning nine of its past 11 and sits just half a game out of first place in the American League West at 25-25.

"Crazy, isn't it," said Mariners second baseman Adam Kennedy, who scored the tying run on a bases-loaded groundout by Brendan Ryan. "When you've got runners in position and guys put the ball in play, good things happen."

Lots of good things seem to be happening for the Mariners as they improved to 17-10 over their last 27 games and found a different way to win the series opener before 33,715 fans.

The Mariners pecked away at the Yankees, putting runners in scoring position and then four times bringing them home on ground balls by Luis Rodriguez and Justin Smoak in the fifth inning and Ryan and Ichiro Suzuki in the sixth.

The Yankees tried the more traditional methods, including a towering home run by Mark Teixeira in the first off Pineda. That was the Yankees' 76th blast of the year, compared with 27 for Seattle. But, hey, whatever works, right?

"You get guys in scoring position, particularly third base, and you just find a way to push them across," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "Our guys did a good job keeping them in the middle of the field. That's the separator right there. If you're hitting those balls to the corners, you're not going to score those runs."

Pineda struggled with his command for the first time this season, walking a season-high five -- including three of the first eight batters he faced. The big rookie lasted just five innings but held the Bombers to three hits and left with a 3-2 deficit and five strikeouts.

Pineda had been the master of control his first nine starts in the Major Leagues with 61 strikeouts and just 14 walks, including a sterling 31-2 mark his past four outings. His 71.2 percent of first-pitch strikes coming in was well ahead of runner-up Ricky Nolasco's 65.9 percent mark.

But on Friday his first-strike percent dipped to 56 percent (13 of 23) even after a course correction following his shaky start.

Clearly he was more cautious against the Yankees, perhaps because they're the Yankees, and perhaps because No. 3 hitter Teixeira blasted a home run out to right field in his first at-bat. It was just the fourth home run Pineda relinquished this season and certainly served as a sharp reminder of the potency of the visitors' lineup.

"Today was a big day for me," the rookie said. "I was very excited for my first time pitching against the Yankees. I don't know what happened. I felt strong. I threw harder in the first inning, but I didn't have good command with my fastball or slider. But I adjusted for the last three innings."

Catcher Miguel Olivo said the 22-year-old was a little overhyped but handled himself admirably against a team he grew up watching on television.

"In the first two innings, he was too happy," Olivo said. "He just wanted to pitch so bad. Growing up in the Dominican, I think he heard all about the Yankees and saw all those highlights, so he was pretty excited. I think he was overthrowing the fastball. But for five innings, they still only had three hits and that's amazing. I know next time he pitches, he'll do well."

The Yankees were disappointed at not taking advantage of the youngster's wildness and getting his pitch count up to 96 after five frames.

"We heard a lot about him coming in," Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher said. "I thought we did a great job getting his pitch count up. We did our job as hitters, put a couple of runs up on the board, and just kind of let it slip away from us. It's a tough loss to take."

But while Pineda threw an uncharacteristically high percentage of balls, he kept his team in the game before turning a 3-2 deficit over to the bullpen.

It didn't hurt that Gold Glove center fielder Franklin Gutierrez made a highlight-reel catch to rob Swisher in the fourth, gliding over to right-center and smoothly going above the wall to steal one from the struggling Yankees outfielder.

"Oh, wow. That was a nice play," Pineda said. "I made a little mistake with the 0-2 and I threw a slider down, but it was a little up. ... I was looking for Guti and said, 'Oh, wow. Oh.' That was a great play. I said thank you."

But Gutierrez couldn't save the youngster in the fifth inning when he gave up two runs, the first with a wild pitch with Curtis Granderson on third and the second on an RBI single by Alex Rodriguez that dropped just in front of a sliding Gutierrez in center field.

The Mariners got to A.J. Burnett for a pair of runs in the fifth after a single by Ryan and double by Ichiro. Luis Rodriguez -- starting in place of Chone Figgins -- then ripped a ground ball that Burnett deflected to second baseman Robinson Cano, who got the runner at first as Ryan scored. Smoak followed with a high chopper to Cano, who flipped the ball from his glove to first to get Smoak as Ichiro crossed the plate.

Seattle pulled the same trick in the sixth by loading the bases and then pushing two more across on a fielder's choice by Ryan and a grounder to short by Ichiro.

David Pauley continued his brilliant run of relief, pitching two shutout innings to run his scoreless streak to 13 frames and lower his ERA to 0.89. Jamey Wright got the job done in the eighth before Brandon League came on for his 13th save.

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