Raul Ibanez seems to be enjoying his return to the Bronx. The Seattle outfielder tries to continue his amazing success at Yankee Stadium on Thursday when the Mariners close out a three-game set versus the New York Yankees.
After blowing a lead to lose Tuesday's opener, Seattle bounced back in a big way on Wednesday, as Ibanez belted a pair of homers, including a grand slam that highlighted a seven-run first inning in the Mariners' 12-2 rout.
Ibanez, who had six RBI, continued to rip the cover off the ball in the Bronx, and Kyle Seager smacked a three-run homer to help Seattle win for the fourth time in its last six tries.
Hisashi Iwakuma (5-1) gave up a pair of solo homers among his eight hits over seven strong innings to win his third straight start.
"He just made a couple of mistakes, but he was efficient and threw the ball well," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.
It's been a resurgence for the 40-year-old Ibanez over these last two games. He belted a two-run homer in the sixth inning of Tuesday's game, when the Mariners blew a 3-0 lead.
It was the second two-homer, six-RBI game for Ibanez. His other came July 14, 2002 while with Kansas City against the Angels. Over his last 11 games at Yankee Stadium (including playoffs), Ibanez has nine homers and 20 RBI, all while compiling a .500 (18-for-36) average.
"He's had a lot success in this ballpark," Wedge said. "He's the consummate pro and doesn't worry about anything. Because of the way his works and his knowledge base, you don't want to bet against the guy."
Vernon Wells and Chris Stewart homered for the Yankees, who lost for just the second time in their last nine games.
Phil Hughes (2-3) didn't make it out of the first inning. The right-hander, who gave up six hits and seven runs while recording just two outs, had a five- start unbeaten string snapped.
Hoping for a better effort in the finale the Yankees will turn to lefty Andy Pettitte, who is 4-2 with a 3.83 ERA. Pettitte won for the first time in three starts on Saturday in Kansas City, as he held the Royals to a pair of runs and five hits in seven innings.
He had been rocked for 11 runs and 14 hits over 9 1/3 innings in his previous two starts.
"Whenever you get knocked around, it's not a good feeling. You never want that doubt to creep in that you're not able to get it done," Pettitte said. "Hopefully I can continue to get sharper and sharper."
Pettitte has faced Seattle 24 times and is 11-12 with a 4.39 ERA.
Seattle, meanwhile, will counter with a veteran hurler of its own in righty Aaron Harang, who has lost four of his five starts with the Mariners. However, the 35-year-old has looked better his last two times out, but hasn't pitched since May 7 when he lost in Pittsburgh. He surrendered two runs in six innings of that one and lowered his ERA to 7.30 on the year.
"I didn't really even think about it until yesterday," Harang said. "I knew I hadn't pitched here in Yankee Stadium. I've faced them in Spring Training before, but that's always a little different. I've watched most of these guys before, or maybe faced them on different teams over in the National League. I'm not going to change anything. I'll go out and try to give us a chance to win."
Harang, a 12-year pro, has never faced the Yankees.
The Yankees were 6-3 against the Mariners last season.