NEW YORK – When they put themselves in position to win, the best they could do was tie, so in the end the Seattle Mariners lost.
Taking everything the New York Yankees could put together into the eighth inning, the Mariners never did take the lead, coughed up runs when it hurt the most and lost, 8-5.
In a night of improbable Seattle rallies – the Mariners came back to tie the game after the Yankees had pulled ahead 2-0, 3-1 and 5-3 – all that was lacking was the go-ahead hit.
The Mariners never got it, and that beat them as much as New York.
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“We had some chances to go ahead, and I had a couple of them,” said Russell Branyan, whose sacrifice fly in the eighth got Seattle even at 5. “If we’d gone ahead, I think it would have made a difference. We just couldn’t put them away when we had the chance.”
The Yankees felt much the same way about the Mariners until their final at-bat, and New York used five pitchers to win a game that began with a 58-minute rain delay.
In thei Mariners’ first game without Gold Glove third baseman Adrian Beltre, the first two New York runs scored in the second inning when Chris Woodward charged a slow roller and committed not one but two errors on play.
“Wet field, wet ball,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “Chris had a couple of big hits for us tonight, and on that play, what are you going to do?”
That misplay began an evening of comebacks, and most of them had something to do with the bottom of the Seattle lineup.
On a night when Jose Lopez, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Sweeney went 0-for-13, Franklin Gutierrez, Woodward and Kenji Johjima combined to go 8-for-13 – and No. 9 hitter Ronny Cedeño homered.
“We’re a team that wins with pitching and defense, and if you’d told me we’d score five runs tonight, I’d have said ‘That’s a win,’ ” Wakamatsu said. “For one of the few nights this season, the pitching just didn’t stop the other team.”
Brandon Morrow started and remained something of an enigma, brilliant one inning, wobbly the next – and occasionally dominant against one batter, wild against the next.
Remarkably, Morrow went 42/3 innings, gave up five hits and five walks, and only allowed one earned run. It took him 98 pitches, however, to get 14 outs.
“I need to do better,” he said.
Morrow left the game tied at 3, although he left it in jeopardy. The Yankees had the bases loaded, two outs and Hideki Matsui at the plate when reliever Chris Jakubauskas entered.
“Wak told me, ‘It doesn’t get any better than this,’ and he was right – Yankee Stadium, big crowd, bases loaded,” Jakubauskas said. “I got out of it.”
Two innings later, Johnny Damon opened the seventh with a double and, one out later, Jakubauskas faced Alex Rodriguez with first base open. On a 2-2 pitch, catcher Johjima called for a fifth consecutive fastball, up and in, and Jakubauskas threw it.
Rodriguez killed it, his 12th home run this season, 565th of his career, and the Mariners trailed, 5-3.
“Not the smartest pitch in that situation,” Wakamatsu said. “We were trying to pitch around him.”
In the eighth inning – three outs from bringing in closer Mariano Rivera – the Yankees were stung by the bottom of the lineup again. Gutierrez singled. Woodward singled. Johjima singled, getting one run home.
Branyan came up with the bases loaded, one out, and flied out to tie the game.
That eighth-inning tie lasted five pitches, all thrown by Sean White.
Hideki Matsui doubled, Nick Swisher dropped a bunt that wound up as a base hit and, on White’s fifth pitch, Melky Cabrera doubled Matsui home.
Derek Jeter’s added a two-run single, and Rivera finished it with a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his 501st career save.