NEW YORK – Felix Hernandez remained glued to his dugout position, as if not trusting the clubhouse television to tell him what was about to happen.
For the first time in three weeks, just four losses away from tying an American League record, the Mariners were about to win and Hernandez wanted to experience it firsthand. He’d come out of the contest seven innings into this 9-2 win over the New York Yankees on Wednesday, having done all that can be expected of a staff ace to help snap a 17-game losing streak.
And for the first time all season, eschewing the typical clubhouse arm-icing and unwinding session, he wanted to be out there with his teammates at the end to ensure their long nightmare was finally over.
“I wanted this game so bad,” Hernandez said. “We were fighting. The 17 games we lost, we were fighting a lot. But finally, we found a way to win a game.”
Hernandez had promised himself beforehand that he’d do all he could to stop this streak. Hernandez is Seattle’s Yankees-killer, owning the Bronx Bombers at this ballpark and at home.
“I was like, ‘You’ve got to win this game,” Hernandez said. “You’ve got to win this game because you’ve got 17 losses in a row. You need to do something. You need to pitch the way you know how to pitch.’ ”
It goes without saying that had he failed in his self-imposed mission, his embattled teammates could have been pressing up against all-time history in just a matter of days. But with his team up 2-0 in the fifth, the bases loaded and only one out for the home side with 47,090 fans at Yankee Stadium sensing a turning point, Hernandez stopped the streak cold.
He got Derek Jeter to fly out to center, a sacrifice fly that scored one run. Then he struck out Curtis Granderson with the count full to carry a 2-1 lead to the sixth.
“That was the key to the game right there, bases loaded and one out,” Hernandez said. “I made good pitches.”
Seattle then put the game away for good in the seventh off the New York bullpen. After the Mariners had scored an unearned run, Mike Carp drove a ball to center off reliever Cory Wade on which a speeding Granderson nearly made an impossible catch.
But the ball popped out of Granderson’s outstretched glove. Three runs scored on what became a triple and the Mariners would go on to take a 7-1 lead.
“It means everything right now,” manager Eric Wedge said of ending the streak. “These guys haven’t felt good in a very long time. We’ve got a long flight and an off-day (today) and this is a real big win for us. When you’ve got a monkey on your back that size, it’s damn hard to get it off.”
The Mariners began their 21-day odyssey a .500 club just 2 1/2 games out of first place. They finally ended the longest losing streak in club history 15 games out of the division lead, on pace for more than 90 losses and having burned up most of the goodwill they’d spent the prior three months rekindling with their increasingly impatient fan base.
“It’s been tough,” said Carp, who finished with four hits and four RBIs to become the third rookie to do that in club history. “Especially with all the media coverage on it and stuff. Everywhere we go, you hear it, you see it, it’s just right in your face. We haven’t been doing anything about it. Today we did. So, it was nice.”