Triple-A alumni featured in Yankees-Mariners game

SEATTLE — The 2016 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are well represented this weekend at Safeco Field as the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners prepare for Saturday’s third game of their four-game series.

And not just in the Yankees’ dugout.

The RailRiders, the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate, went 91-52 in the regular season last year and 7-1 in the playoffs, winning not only the International League pennant but beating the Pacific Coast League’s El Paso Chihuahuas in the Triple-A National Championship.

“This is a special group,” RailRiders manager Al Pedrique told The Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., last year after the team won the IL title. “These kids play the game the right way.”

That success has continued at the major league level in 2017.

The American League team at last week’s All-Star Game in Miami featured three Yankees who spent at least half of last season in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: right fielder Aaron Judge, catcher Gary Sanchez and right-hander Luis Severino.

Judge put on an impressive display in winning the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game. He is batting .313 with a major league-leading 31 homers and 72 RBIs in this his rookie season. He nearly hit a ball out of Safeco Field on Friday night.

Sanchez, who became a breakout star in New York late last summer, spent three weeks on the disabled list in the first month of this season but has rebounded to hit .270 with 14 homers and 46 RBIs.

And Severino, who pitched seven scoreless innings Thursday to outduel longtime Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, is 6-4 with a 3.21 ERA.

While Judge is a contender for the American League’s Most Valuable Player award, it was Seattle left fielder Ben Gamel who was named the IL’s MVP last season.

Gamel, acquired by the Mariners last Aug. 31 for right-handers Jio Orozco and Juan De Paula, started this season in Triple-A but since being recalled from Tacoma on April 26 is batting .319, fifth in the AL.

“I thought he was a kid who had some talent. I don’t think any of us saw what he is doing this year,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Gamel, who appeared in six games for New York last season before being traded. “But there were a lot of people in our organization who were really high on him.”

Mariners left-hander James Pazos also pitched for the RailRiders last season. He is 2-2 with a 3.41 ERA for Seattle in 38 relief appearances after being acquired in an offseason deal for right-hander Zack Littell.

“We had two pretty good left-handers in the time (Pazos) was here,” Girardi said, referring to Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller early last season, when Pazos finally made his first appearance on his third call-up. “We knew he had a really good arm.”

Mariners manager Scott Servais said Gamel and Pazos have been “really nice additions.”

“When we acquired Pazos, we knew he had a big arm but had some inconsistency controlling the strike zone. He’s been outstanding,” Servais said. “Gamel has got a really good swing and has made the most of his opportunity. They’re both in good spots.”

Saturday’s game is set to feature a matchup between Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (7-9, 5.33 ERA) and Mariners left-hander Ariel Miranda (7-4, 4.35), who will be making his first career appearance against New York.

Tanaka has dominated the Mariners more than any other team in his career, going 5-0 in five starts with a 1.95 ERA. In 37 innings, he has allowed 26 hits, walked four and struck out 38.