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OAK@SEA: Iwakuma dazzles over seven, strikes out nine

No matter how well they have played without him, the Yankees were pleased to welcome Curtis Granderson back to the lineup in Tuesday's series opener against the Mariners.

After all, a club littered with limping veterans could use a boost during a stretch of 17 games in 16 days.

"I think guys are probably excited and probably feel a little lift that Grandy's in there," manager Joe Girardi said before his club's 4-3 win. "I know I was excited to see him. We know what he's capable of doing. We're in a long stretch … so I think it really helps us in a time like this, especially coming home from a long road trip and a doubleheader. I actually think it's a lift."

In Tuesday's win, his first Major League action since he broke a bone in his right forearm during Spring Training, Granderson went 0-for-3 with a walk.

"It's not like I've been trying to rush myself back, because I knew it was a broken bone and I can't go ahead and do anything if it's still broken," Granderson said of his recovery. "You've got to let it heal. And once it was able to heal, we've got to start swinging and getting my legs back underneath me. ...I was excited to get back. I knew the time was going to come sooner rather than later."

The American League East-leading Yankees have won seven of eight and 14 of 19, but they'll encounter a daunting task on Wednesday when they face Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma.

The native of Japan has limited opposing batters to a .167 average, the second-best mark among AL pitchers. His 1.74 ERA ranks third in the AL. In his last outing, Iwakuma held Oakland to two runs on four hits over seven innings while tallying nine strikeouts. He has allowed only 10 earned runs in eight starts this season.

"What he does is he repeats," said Seattle skipper Eric Wedge. "He's so consistent with his arm action, his arm slot, his release point. It's tough to see what's coming out, which is what you have to do if you're going to be a solid starting pitcher up here. And he's been pitching for a long time."

Mariners: Ackley likely to play on Wednesday
• On Tuesday, second baseman Dustin Ackley wasn't in the starting lineup for the second time in as many nights, but Wedge said it was a matchup decision, with Yankees southpaw CC Sabathia on the mound. Wedge also rested Ackley in Sunday's series finale against the A's. Ackley, who drew a walk as a pinch-hitter on Tuesday, is expected to return to the lineup on Wednesday.

• Wedge said a blister on the middle finger of Iwakuma's pitching hand appears to be a thing of the past.

"It should be behind him, knock on wood," Wedge said. "I think he's in pretty good shape now. We just have to continue to manage it and stay ahead of it."

Yankees: Hughes set to toe the rubber
• Phil Hughes has recorded a victory in each of his last two outings. In one of the starts, he tossed eight scoreless innings and struck out nine. In the other, he granted the Royals six runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 frames. The shaky outing against Kansas City snapped a streak of four consecutive quality starts for Hughes, who is is 2-2 with a 4.43 ERA on the season.

• Designated hitter Travis Hafner underwent an MRI exam on his ailing right shoulder on Tuesday, and the test came back negative. The veteran designated hitter received a cortisone injection to help alleviate the inflammation.

"It's just a little tendinitis in his shoulder," Girardi said. "It came out as good as we could've hoped for. He's going to be OK."

Worth noting
• Ackley has five hits in 10 career at-bats against Hughes.

• In two career starts against the Yankees, Iwakuma has posted an 0-1 record and a 3.60 ERA.

• Yankees closer Mariano Rivera has converted all 16 of his save chances this season.

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