SEATTLE -- The losses that come with Mariano Rivera walking off the mound often go down this way, with a ball hit just well enough that it finds a safe patch of outfield grass to land on.
Adam Kennedy was the one providing the ending on Saturday, knocking in pinch-runner Luis Rodriguez with the winning run in the 12th inning to lift the Mariners to a 5-4 victory over the Yankees at Safeco Field.
"It was the game," Rivera said. "I made good pitches and the ball found places. You can't do [anything]. I wish we'd still be playing, but it's done."
The loss resides next to Rivera's name in the box score, but the Yankees knew better.
After wrestling a lead away from Felix Hernandez in the seventh inning, four Seattle relievers silenced their bats until the end of a four-hour, 18-minute grind that ended well after most New Yorkers had retired to bed.
"They've been throwing a lot of strikes," said Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano. "They've been pitching really well. You can see their ERAs. They're really good and you've got to give them some credit."
In the decisive 12th, Justin Smoak got aboard with a one-out single before leaving for the pinch-runner, and Jack Cust followed with a well-hit double into the left-field corner.
"You can't defend that. There's no excuses," Rivera said.
An intentional walk loaded the bases for Kennedy, who won it with a shallow looper to center field.
"I'm trying to survive," Kennedy said. "You know what's coming. That's my second hit off him ever and the other one was just the same. It's not easy."
David Pauley was the last of Seattle's relievers on Saturday, hurling two scoreless innings for the win. The Yankees have gone quietly over nine frames against the Mariners' bullpen in the series.
"It's been two nights in a row we haven't scored on them," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought we had a couple of chances, we hit some balls hard. We just didn't score."
Hernandez struggled early, serving up a solo homer to Cano in the second inning and a two-run shot to Mark Teixeira in the third.
"They were waiting a little bit, but after the third they started hacking," Hernandez said. "I made two mistakes with fastballs to Cano. That was right in the middle. And Teixeira, too. I fell behind and you pay."
He settled in, but the Yankees were able to get him to cough up a one-run lead in the seventh.
With Derek Jeter aboard, Granderson belted a drive to right field that Ichiro Suzuki pursued oddly, leaping on the warning track and missing the ball entirely. Granderson charged to third base as Jeter scored the tying run easily.
It was an interesting night for Jeter, who had two hits and is now 21 away from becoming the first player in a Yankees uniform to reach the 3,000-hit plateau.
Jeter also used the evening to reach another statistical milestone, logging his 327th career stolen base in the third inning, surpassing Rickey Henderson for the most in franchise history.
That was all book-keeping in the end. As he watched from the clubhouse, Ivan Nova took responsibility.
Down, 3-1, after three innings, the Mariners took the lead with three runs in the fourth, knocking Nova out.
"I feel bad about that," Nova said. "I had the lead twice in the game and I can't hold on. I don't feel happy with that."
Franklin Gutierrez started the fourth with a bad-hop single that ate up Jeter, and Kennedy doubled to set up Miguel Olivo's game-tying, two-run double.
Nova also uncorked a wild pitch and allowed the go-ahead hit, a Brendan Ryan RBI single, before leaving.
"I don't have really good command today, but I've got to find another way to fight and stay in the game," Nova said. "I'll try to do better next time."
Girardi said that he would have liked to see Nova challenge hitters more. The righty allowed five hits in 3 2/3 innings, walking three and fanning one.
"You have to be able to throw strikes," Girardi said. "This is a ballpark where there aren't a lot of home runs hit. I think you can be more aggressive in this ballpark and attack the strike zone. That's what he has to do."
You couldn't pin it on the Yankees' bullpen. Hector Noesi performed admirably in relief, holding the Mariners scoreless over 2 1/3 innings of two-hit ball.
Dave Robertson struck out the side in the seventh. Joba Chamberlain hurled two scoreless innings and Boone Logan faced the minimum in the 10th before Luis Ayala set the Mariners down in the 11th.
Ultimately, even as Kennedy's humpback off Rivera rolled past Granderson and was abandoned in center field, the Yankees had to look back at the early innings as the turning point.
"It's frustrating," Girardi said. "We had leads in both of the games and weren't able to hold them. We gave free baserunners and it hurt us."