From around the 'bend, Ryan steps up
Making the start for Silva, lefty hurls Seattle to a series win
SEATTLE -- The last thing left-hander Ryan Feierabend expected when he went to work on Sunday morning was to start the Mariners' series finale against the Yankees.But circumstances out of his control put the game in his hands, and he didn't let go of it until he had pitched the first seven innings in the Mariners' 5-2 victory in front of 42,677 at Safeco Field. On a day Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter tied Babe Ruth for second place on the Yankees' all-time hit list, Mariners second baseman Jose Lopez acted like the Babe, belting two home runs in one game for the first time in his career. Third baseman Adrian Beltre contributed two hits, including his 25th home run, Raul Ibanez drove in his 102nd run of the season, right-handed reliever Miguel Batista worked a perfect eighth inning and closer J.J. Putz notched a 21-pitch save, striking out the last two batters he faced, both representing the tying run. But the spotlight shined on Feierabend this bright, sunny afternoon. He was supposed to have a between-start bullpen session to help prepare him for his scheduled start against the Rangers on Wednesday afternoon. But those plans were scrapped when Feierabend received a visit from pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre. "At about 10:30 or 11, Mel came over to me and asked if I would be willing to start because [Carlos] Silva came down with back spasms," Feierabend said. "I told him I had never done that before, throw in a game without having a bullpen session, but I would do it." And so, with precious little time to prepare for his fifth start of the season with the Mariners, the lefty went over a game plan quickly and had little time to think about the challenge he was about to encounter. But short notice might have been a good thing. "It probably helped, especially with this being the first time I have started against the Yankees and that caliber of team. You tend to sit around and think about who's in their lineup, and sort of think of what they have done in the past. Today, it was sort of just go over the game plan before the game and pitch. I wasn't really nervous." But he was good, especially in the sixth and seventh innings when he recorded six outs on 11 pitches. "Sometimes, it happens that way," said manager Jim Riggleman of pitching on short notice. "A guy comes in not expecting to pitch, gets thrown in there without much time to think about it and has a good performance. Ryan did that today. It was unfortunate the circumstances made him go in there, but he did a good job." Feierabend surrendered solo home runs to Jeter in the first inning and Xavier Nady in the second, giving right-handed starter Mike Mussina, a 17-game winner, an early two-run lead. "When those were done and over with, I figured it couldn't get any worse," Feierabend said. "Solo homers don't kill you." Beltre's two-run home run to right field in the third inning pulled Seattle into a tie, and Feierabend had to pitch through a fourth-inning jam to keep it deadlocked. A Nady walk and a Hideki Matsui double put runners on second and third bases with one out, but Robinson Cano struck out and catcher Jose Molina flied out to center fielder Jeremy Reed. Lopez led off the bottom of the fourth inning with his 13th home run of the season -- and later added his career-high 14th in the eighth. A little trickery helped Feierabend a lot. After issuing walks to Jeter and Alex Rodriguez in the fifth inning, a planned play worked perfectly. This is how it works: first baseman Bryan LaHair plays behind the runner at first base, gives a sign to Feierabend, breaks to the base and catches the throw. The runner, meanwhile, has no clue as to what's happening. And so, with A-Rod on first and two outs, the sign was given -- and it resulted in the final out of the inning, much to the pleasure of the near-capacity crowd. "It's a backdoor pick, a play LaHair and I have done for the four or five years we've been together," Feierabend explained. "We work on it every year, and it has gotten to the point where we know each other so well that we know when to look for it and when to put it on. That was time to do it, and it worked." Feierabend said it usually works because the first-base coach, more than the runner, is paying more attention to the batter than the pitcher. "Ryan has a good pickoff move," Riggleman said, "but that works more because of the element of surprise than the quality of the move. You surprise them or you don't." And the Yanks were surprised. "I think it was just a mental mistake [by A-Rod]," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He was watching Derek over at second to see what he was doing, and when he left, Alex just got caught. He had a rough series up here, but he was huge for us at the beginning of the trip and we need him to come up big in Anaheim." Rodriguez, once one of the most popular athletes in Seattle, is now regarded as the biggest villain, and he received a chorus of boos every time he came to bat. He went 0-for-3 on Sunday and 0-for-10 in the series with two walks, two strikeouts and he was hit by a pitch on Saturday. Feierabend retired A-Rod twice, one of them on a called third strike. It was that kind of day for the young left-hander. "He has a lot of composure out there," Riggleman said. "No matter what's going on, he trusts his stuff and mixes his pitches. He also throws inside, but it's his mound presence as much as anything. He has a mature feel about him, like he's a veteran out there."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.