NEW YORK – Russell Branyan knows all about hitting home runs that baseball fans will be discussing for years.
So, as hard as he tried to downplay the epic, fourth-deck shot at the new Yankee Stadium on Saturday, he finally had to admit that it’s fun to see such blasts and talk about them. Unfortunately for the Mariners, there wasn’t much else for them to discuss beyond the early cannon blast from Branyan and two rare homers by Ichiro Suzuki on a day they suffered a 9-5 defeat to the New York Yankees.
Once Ichiro hit his second long ball of the day, helping to chase Yankees starter Javier Vazquez after three-plus innings, the rest of the offense couldn’t touch the New York bullpen. That could explain Branyan’s initial reluctance to discuss becoming the first player to hit a ball to that level of this stadium, something that had the locals here buzzing both during and after another forgettable game.
“Guys were excited to see the ball,” Branyan said of the greeting he received in the dugout afterward. “I mean, it’s fun. I’m not going to downplay it. When somebody hits a ball, even when it’s with the other team, our team, it’s fun to watch. I mean, I like watching when A-Rod gets a hold of one. Or (Mark) Teixeira, or (Robinson) Cano. It’s neat to see a ball hit that far.”
Teixeira had hit a pair of third-deck homers at this park. Nick Swisher asked Branyan back in early July, when the Mariners were last here, whether he thought he could hit one to the fourth level.
“I said, ‘I don’t know, it looks a lot farther than the old stadium’s upper deck,’ ” Branyan said. “But that one today went up there, so I guess the answer’s yeah.”
Branyan talked about how a couple of Mariners had gone with trainer Rick Griffin to throw long-toss in Central Park during an off-day. By the time they finished the session, a huge crowd had gathered.
“People enjoy watching us do our jobs,” Branyan said. “When you get a hold of a ball and hit it a long way, it’s neat to see.”
Unfortunately for the Mariners, the Yankees countered with a long ball of their own off Jason Vargas in the bottom of the first. The two-run blast by Jorge Posada capped a four-run inning that put New York ahead 4-2.
Vargas retired 15 batters in a row after that and the Mariners tied it up off Vazquez on Ichiro’s second homer of the game and an RBI single from Casey Kotchman. But the offense could do nothing off reliever Chad Gaudin after he came on with none out in the fourth inning.
The Yankees finally scored three off Vargas in the seventh to take a 7-4 lead on the strength of four straight singles, a walk and a sacrifice fly. Vargas was done after Eduardo Nunez notched the third of those singles to drive in a pair of his first big league hit and first two runs batted in, snapping a 4-4 tie.
Kotchman had a 274-game errorless streak at first base snapped.