Yankees' win streak snapped at seven
Odd chain of events works against Bombers in finale
NEW YORK -- More impressive than the fact that the Yankees had been winning nonstop for more than a week was the manner in which they were doing it. Crisp games were a staple. Strong pitching performances were the norm.
And though they may one day look back on Thursday's game as nothing more than an isolated step backward, the Yankees were forced to consider it afterward for all the things it wasn't. It wasn't a crisp game. It wasn't a strong pitching performance. And most of all, it wasn't a win.
That last bit was what haunted the Yankees most. Rather than win their eighth straight game, they fell, 8-4, to the Mariners. Rather than watch CC Sabathia thrive, they watched him struggle.
"It was frustrating, just because we've been playing so well," Sabathia said. "We scored four runs to try to sweep a team -- that should be enough to get the win. I just kind of let us down today."
Of all the people to snap a seven-game winning streak, Sabathia seemed an unlikely candidate. His injury-shortened start in Florida aside, Sabathia had proven remarkably consistent, pitching at least seven innings in each of his other nine most recent games. He had allowed no more than four earned runs in any of those starts.
But he shattered both streaks Thursday. From the moment Ichiro Suzuki led off the game with a line-drive double to the minute Russell Branyan walked with two outs in the sixth, Sabathia struggled, serving up hard-hit ball after hard-hit ball. Ichiro scored on Jose Lopez's groundout, before Franklin Gutierrez homered to lead off the second.
By the end of the fourth inning, the Mariners had scored six times off Sabathia, who was sporting what Yankees manager Joe Girardi called his best fastball of the season -- but who could not keep that pitch down in the zone.
"It was just the kind of day where they hit everything we threw," catcher Francisco Cervelli said. "Things like that happen."
That also applied to Alfredo Aceves, who escaped from Sabathia's sixth-inning jam, but he could not silence the Mariners for a full turn of the lineup. Branyan reemerged in the ninth to drive the first ball in new Yankee Stadium history off the restaurant in center field, chasing Aceves from the game and providing the Mariners with their final margin of victory.
The Yankees rallied, but did not score -- and it was some time after Branyan's shot that the reality of a loss set in for a team that, until the first inning, hadn't even trailed in more than a week.
"It's disappointing whenever we lose a game," Girardi said. "We were playing so well. We had won seven in a row, and CC had been throwing the ball so well for us. We felt really good about our chances tonight, but it just shows that he's human. On certain nights, he's not going to have his best stuff."
Nor are the Yankees. This game was everything their winning streak was not, from Sabathia's pitching to Mark Teixeira's fielding. Consider Ichiro's double in the first, for example -- on another night, Teixeira might have speared that ball en route to a 1-2-3 inning. Then there was Ryan Langerhans' double in the sixth -- a hot grounder that bounced high over Teixeira's glove.
Later, in the ninth, Teixeira committed his first error in 107 games when he snared an Ichiro ground ball, but he threw well wide of Aceves, who was covering the bag.
"I'm going to make a couple of errors every year," Teixeira said. "You just don't want them to be in a big situation. You want to make every play you can."
And they want to win every game they can, as impossible as that may be. Though the Yankees woke up Thursday knowing that they would lose eventually, they paid no attention to that fact. Their ace was on the mound, so why lose today? They were gunning for a series sweep, so why drop one now?
"When you're playing so well and doing so many things right," Girardi said, "you are surprised when you see little things that don't go right."
Things did not go right on Thursday, and now the team's response seems more important. The last time the Yankees snapped a winning streak of this caliber -- a nine-game run back in mid-May -- they proceeded to play .500 ball over the next month. They can hardly afford to suffer a similar setback now, with the season nearly half over and the division rival Blue Jays looming over the holiday weekend.
"That's the good thing about our team," left fielder Johnny Damon said. "Every time we take the field, we feel like we can win. We know we can't just throw our gloves on and expect to win. We felt like we could've gotten closer here, but sometimes this happens. We still feel like we're going to win."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.