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NEW YORK -- The Mariners went bat-to-bat with the Yankees in an old-fashioned slugfest on Friday night at Yankee Stadium and emerged with a collective sigh of relief that could be heard all the way to Seattle.
The Mariners spotted the Yankees a five-run lead, retaliated against left-handed starter Kei Igawa for six runs over the second, third and fourth innings, fell behind again in the bottom of the fourth, built a seven-run lead thanks to an eight-run fifth inning and then held on for dear life at the end for a 15-11 victory in front of 49,519.
"Any time you can come in here and win any sort of game against the Yankees is big," Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said. "Very rarely do people come in here and slug with the Yankees and come out ahead. Tonight, we did, but I sure wouldn't want to do that every night."
Every Mariners starter had at least one hit, left fielder Raul Ibanez went 4-for-6, and the bottom third of the Seattle lineup -- catcher Kenji Johjima, shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and second baseman Jose Lopez -- went a combined 8-for-15, scored six runs and drove in nine runs. Johjima finished a triple shy of the cycle.
It's the most runs the Mariners have scored at Yankee Stadium in their history. The previous high was 14, on May 8, 1999, when Seattle whipped New York, 14-5.
"When you score 15 runs, you don't expect the tying run to come to the plate at the end of the game," Hargrove said, "but it was."
Not once, but twice.
The eight-run fifth inning turned a two-run deficit into a six-run lead, and when Richie Sexson became the last starter to get a hit -- and drive in a run -- with a double to left-center field in the seventh, the Mariners had what looked to be a comfortable seven-run lead.
But Yankees left-handed-hitting center fielder Johnny Damon hit a three-run home run off left-handed reliever George Sherrill in the bottom of the seventh inning to cut the gap to four, and three of the Yankees' first four batters in the bottom of the ninth reached base before closer J.J. Putz came to the rescue.
He replaced Brandon Morrow with two on and one out, surrendered a single to pinch-hitter Jason Giambi to load the bases, then retired Damon on a popup to Sexson and shortstop Derek Jeter on a grounder to shortstop.
"We outscored 'em tonight," Hargrove said. "I'm not sure our pitching staffs, or our stomachs, could stand much more of that, and I'm sure [Yankees manager] Joe [Torre] would agree.
"It was like somebody sticking bamboo shoots under your fingernails -- not fun at all. Not even when we were ahead, 15-8. The way the night was going, you knew there was a real possibility that they were going to make it close. That's the way the whole night had been going.
"Thank goodness we scored those eight in that one inning to get out ahead far enough to where they couldn't catch us."
Yes, that eight-run fifth inning was something else.
The first eight batters of the inning reached base and scored. Designated hitter Jose Vidro and Ibanez each had two hits in the inning, and Lopez drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single. An inning earlier, he had cracked a two-run home run to left field that completed Seattle's comeback from the Yankees' five-run greeting for Cha Seung Baek in the first inning.
"It looked like he overthrew again," Hargrove said. "You could tell from the look on his face that he got a little too excited and got 'under' a lot of pitches, which is not like him. It's similar to what he did in his first start in Texas."
For whatever reason, Friday's was nothing like Baek's previous outing, in which he held the Royals hitless into the sixth inning and shut them out until the seventh.
Baek lasted into the fourth inning on Friday night, departing with a runner on base and two outs.
Left-hander Eric O'Flaherty came on to face the left-handed-hitting Bobby Abreu, who singled, and Alex Rodriguez followed with a two-run double to left field that gave New York an 8-6 lead.
After walking Hideki Matsui, O'Flaherty struck out Jorge Posada to end the inning. He pitched two more innings and was rewarded with his first Major League victory.
"I was pretty upset to allow those two runs," he said. "But we came back, and we'll take it."
The most important thing O'Flaherty did, he said, was throw strikes.
"I still walked two guys and gave up [four] hits, but in a situation like that, you have to come in and throw as many strikes as you can, even if they are hitting the ball real well.
"As you could see, both teams were hitting the ball really well. It was one of those hitters' days, I guess. I'm a bad hitter, and I might even have had a couple tonight."
Well, not likely, but just about everyone else did.
There were 36 hits overall -- 20 by the Mariners -- and Jeter was the only starter on either team to go hitless. His 20-game hitting streak came to an end.
Every Mariners starter began his own hitting streak, but the thing that pleased hitting coach Jeff Pentland the most was the way the Seattle hitters took pitches in the fifth inning.
Yankees reliever Colter Bean replaced Igawa with two runners on base and promptly threw eight consecutive balls to force in a run. In rapid order, Johjima singled home a run, Betancourt doubled home two, Lopez singled home two more and the rally was off and running.
"Probably the walks more than anything else," Pentland said of the keys to the biggest single-inning scoring outburst since the Mariners scored eight runs in the second inning last May 21 against the Padres. "We got a lot of hits that inning -- a lot of hits with men on base.
"We just did a good job of driving in runs."