SEATTLE -- The box score will tell you that the Yankees defeated the Mariners, 9-3, Monday night at Safeco Field.
But this was more than just a win to move New York further ahead in the American League East race. This was a win against Felix Hernandez.
For over three years, the defending American League Cy Young winner had New York's number, going 5-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his last six starts against the Bronx Bombers. But the Seattle ace finally cracked, as the Yankees' bats went off in a five-run fourth inning to help New York finally bring down King Felix.
Did Hernandez look any different on Monday night?
"I don't know. I just think we've got a great team," said first baseman Nick Swisher, who returned after missing the past three games. "Credit is due to us, man. He's a great pitcher and we put up some good runs off him. You don't see that very often. You've got to give credit where credit's due and our guys did a great job tonight."
Behind the big cushion, starter Phil Hughes kept the struggling Seattle offense in check. He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning and was done after that, hurling 99 pitches and giving up just one run on five Seattle hits. Hughes has held opponents to two earned runs or less in six of his last eight starts.
"You never expect to get that many runs off him," said Hughes, who improved to 5-5. "You're usually expecting a dogfight, maybe one or two runs, but fortunately he wasn't on it tonight. We scored some runs and that was nice to work with."
The Yankees scored so much off Hernandez and the Seattle bullpen that closer Mariano Rivera didn't have an opportunity to claim his 600th save, as the 41-year-old veteran is just three saves away from passing Trevor Hoffmann atop the all-time career saves list.
After losing four in a row, the Yankees have now won two straight, and with the victory extended their lead to four games over the Red Sox in the AL East.
"We haven't exactly been playing as well as we liked," Swisher said. "Tonight we definitely had that fire and it worked out well for us."
With the game squared at one apiece in the fourth frame, the Yankees went to work on Hernandez, who saw his three-game winning streak snapped. Mark Teixeira launched a solo shot to right field -- his 37th of the season and fifth career homer against Hernandez -- to lead things off.
Robinson Cano then smacked his 41st double to right field and Swisher lined a single to left field for New York's third straight hit. An Eric Chavez sacrifice fly to center scored Cano and made it 3-1.
It didn't stop there, as Hernandez's cheering section -- a.k.a "King's Court" -- in the left-field corner fell silent. Brett Gardner doubled down the left-field line to score Swisher, and that set the stage for Chris Dickerson, who had just 29 at-bats this season entering Monday's game. The 29-year-old right fielder crushed a two-run blast deep into the right-field seats that extended the New York lead to 6-1.
"That inning I was leaving the ball up and they got me," said Hernandez.
What made the home run even more impressive was the fact that Dickerson's last at-bat before Monday came Sept. 1 at Boston. And on top of that, Dickerson had jammed his thumb in the third inning after stealing second base.
"I was really worried when I hit [Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan's] cleat. I thought it was broken -- it was just that numb feeling," recalled Dickerson, who hit his first homer since May 17, 2009. "I could feel the swelling in my batting glove, but luckily I've been using new bats, so I don't have to use too much of my thumb and I was just able to get through it. All it takes is one good swing and whatever pain I could endure for that one swing, it was OK with me."
Cano, who finished 3-for-4 with a run scored, added a bases-clearing double in the seventh inning off reliever Dan Cortes after fouling off five straight pitches. The 28-year-old now has a .333 (235-for-706) career average in regular-season games in September and October, the ninth-highest in the Majors since 1950.
Hernandez fell to 14-12 this season and had given up just six earned runs in his previous four starts combined. The righty was tagged for nine hits and six runs, the most he's given up since a loss at Boston on July 22. The five runs allowed in the fourth inning was the first time Hernandez has given up five or more earned runs in an inning since July 22, 2007 at Toronto.
Hughes, on the other hand, has now allowed just three runs over his last two starts after allowing six runs in the prior two starts before that. He worked well on Monday with rookie catcher Austin Romine, who was making his first Major League start behind the plate.
The two had already worked together multiple times in Spring Training and also during Hughes' rehab stint in June. That experience paid off on Monday.
"He's really good back there," Hughes said of the newest Yankee. "I've had him a couple times already and he's very advanced behind the plate. He calls a good game, gives a real good target.
"It takes guys awhile to get accustomed back there calling games and it seems like since he came up he's always been really good back there," Hughes continued. "It was great. Like I said, I had him a couple times and I kind of knew how good he was and it showed today."
Romine notched his first career hit in the seventh inning with a single to right field.
"My first start was everything I thought it'd be," said Romine, who added that he'll give his first hit to his parents. "It was hectic at one point [when Hughes pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth], but just really fun out there."
Taylor Soper is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.