NEW YORK — It had been a decade since pitchers with so many combined punchouts started the same game.
In this showdown between Félix Hernández and CC Sabathia, the New York Yankees landed their haymakers early.
The Yankees pounced on Hernández, hitting three homers in the first two innings to build a comfortable cushion for Sabathia in a 7-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Monday night.
Luke Voit, Brett Gardner and Thairo Estrada homered off Hernández while New York gave Sabathia a 7-0 lead and held on for its 12th win in 16 games. Hernández (1-3) settled in after the second, completing five innings of seven-run ball.
Hernandez had allowed just two homers in 12 career starts in the Bronx. He allowed three in seven batters Monday.
“One of those nights when I didn’t have my best stuff,” Hernández said.
Domingo Santana and Dee Gordon homered off Sabathia, but the oversized lefty limited Seattle to three runs over five innings. Sabathia (2-1) struck out five in his first start since becoming the 17th pitcher with 3,000 strikeouts last week.
Sabathia and Hernández entered with a combined 5,498 strikeouts, the most between opposing starters since San Francisco’s Randy Johnson (4,867) faced Houston’s Roy Oswalt (1,418) in 2009.
Sabathia struck out Mitch Haniger on three pitches to start the game and cruised the first time through the order. He lost steam in the fifth, loading the bases with a four-pitch walk to Santana with two outs before breaking Jay Bruce’s bat on a groundout to first on his 99th pitch.
Hernández had been sharper this season than during a dismal 2018, relying more on his curveball and doing a better job throwing strikes. Manager Scott Servais said Hernández got away from that approach in the Bronx.
“He really didn’t get into kind of what he does, or what he’s been doing, using the curveball and kind of going back and forth,” Servais said. “You’ve got to give them credit. They were on it, and they didn’t miss it.”
Estrada went the other way to right-center for his first major league homer in the second, getting an extended silent treatment in the home dugout after rounding the bases.
“You see the way we didn’t acknowledge him,” Sabathia said with a smile. “That always tells you that we care a lot about a guy.”
Hernández and Estrada both grew up in Valencia, Venezuela.
“I did watch a lot of his games as a kid,” the 23-year-old Estrada said via translator. “It’s kind of like a dream to face him and be able to connect.”
Seattle loaded the bases with one out in the sixth against Jonathan Holder but couldn’t push any runs across. Adam Ottavino relieved and got a flyout from Haniger, and Estrada made a stellar play at short to charge Tim Beckham’s slow grounder for the final out.
The Mariners have dropped seven of eight.