NEW YORK – When he finally connected, Russell Branyan made it count.
Branyan rebounded from a frustrating string of strikeouts with a mammoth homer over Monument Park, and the Seattle Mariners beat CC Sabathia 8-4 on Thursday night to snap the New York Yankees’ seven-game winning streak.
“Majestic,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said.
Franklin Gutierrez also homered and Ichiro Suzuki hit a two-run double that was misplayed by center fielder Melky Cabrera. Chris Woodward added two RBIs as Seattle won in the Bronx for the first time since Sept. 3, 2007, ending a 10-game road losing streak against the Yankees.
“Our guys are learning how to win,” reliever Miguel Batista said.
Branyan launched his 20th homer in the ninth inning, a two-run shot off right-hander Alfredo Aceves that made it 8-4. It was the first drive at the new Yankee Stadium to carom off the tinted-glass windows of the big sports bar in straightaway center, above Monument Park.
It also ended a rough stretch for Branyan, who struck out seven straight times in two nights – all against lefties – before drawing a walk from Sabathia in the sixth.
“I know it’s just a matter of time before I come out of something like that,” Branyan said. “In the grand scheme of things, it’s just two days. If I can limit my bad at-bats to two days, I’ll take it.”
Seattle avoided a three-game sweep and handed Sabathia (7-5) his second loss in 11 starts.
“It was frustrating just because we were playing so well,” Sabathia said. “It was just one of those days when I left some pitches up.”
Gutierrez had three hits for the third time in five games. Five of his eight homers have come in the past 15 games.
Batista (5-2) pitched two hitless innings to win in relief of ill starter Jason Vargas, who lasted four innings with flu symptoms. Wakamatsu appreciated the effort. He said Vargas was vomiting until about 3 a.m. Thursday.
Mark Lowe worked two scoreless innings before David Aardsma finished. Seattle’s bullpen yielded three hits in five scoreless innings.
“A lot of unsung heroes today,” Wakamatsu said.
Hideki Matsui homered and drove in three runs for New York, while Robinson Cano had three hits.
The first pitch was delayed 36 minutes by threatening storms, though they never brought rain. Sabathia entered 6-1 with a 2.82 ERA in his previous 10 outings, but he struggled right from the start.
Ichiro opened the game with a line-drive double off Mark Teixeira’s glove at first base. He stole third and scored on Jose Lopez’s soft groundout between the mound and first.
It marked the first time the Yankees trailed since the top of the sixth inning June 24 in Atlanta.
Seattle began the second with three well-struck hits off Sabathia, including Gutierrez’s leadoff homer. Woodward, subbing for injured third baseman Adrian Beltre, had a sacrifice fly.
Nick Swisher and Matsui hit sacrifice flies in the bottom half, cutting it to 3-2. Ichiro dropped Matsui’s waist-high liner toward the right-field line, the third error this season for a player who has won eight consecutive Gold Gloves since arriving from Japan.
Moments later, as Ichiro lined up an inning-ending flyout, screaming fans tried to rattle him. After making the catch, Ichiro faked flipping the ball into the stands, drawing boos from the crowd of 46,142.
Woodward hit an RBI single in the fourth and Ichiro’s double over Cabrera’s head made it 6-2. Cabrera got a bad jump on the ball and it appeared he didn’t realize how deep it was hit until it was too late.
“It looked like Melky kind of broke in on that ball,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “When you’re playing so well, you’re surprised when you’re not so crisp.”
Matsui’s two-run homer in the bottom half trimmed it to 6-4.
Sabathia exited with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth. He allowed six runs and 10 hits, striking out eight.
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