NEW YORK (AP) -Felix Hernandez watched with delight as Russell Branyan's drive in the first inning landed in the New York Yankees' bullpen for a three-run homer - and some rare run support.
``It was like, 'Yeah!'' Hernandez said. ``Now you got to do your job.'
Oh, he did, giving up four hits in eight innings to lift the Seattle Mariners to a 6-0 victory Friday night and just miss becoming the first pitcher in more than 25 years to throw four straight complete games against the Yankees.
Mariners interim manager Daren Brown, who improved to 7-3 with the club, didn't consider giving his 24-year-old ace a shot at the ninth because he threw 117 pitches.
``Nope. Nope. I've said it before: This kid's valuable to our future. I'd love to get him an opportunity to go back out if he could keep his pitches down a little bit,' Brown said. ``Hopefully sometime down the road the game will have a lot bigger meaning and maybe we'll think about letting him go.'
Branyan also homered in the sixth off A.J. Burnett and drove in four runs to help Seattle win its third in a row. It was Branyan's 14th multihomer game and second this year.
Hat slightly askew as usual, Hernandez kept New York off-kilter, striking out 11. He was lifted for Garrett Olson, who pitched a perfect ninth to finish the Mariners' eighth shutout.
Alex Rodriguez returned to the Yankees' lineup as the designated hitter after missing three games because of a strained left calf but was pulled after one at-bat, a groundout.
Rodriguez told manager Joe Girardi he felt something pull during a swing.
``I wouldn't say it's any worse,' Rodriguez said.
Girardi said A-Rod will likely miss a few more games, but didn't rule out the disabled list.
The Mariners needed just 11 pitches to take a comfortable 3-0 lead, the most runs they've scored when Hernandez started since July 16 - three runs. Ichiro Suzuki singled, Chone Figgins walked and Branyan hit a 2-1 pitch for a homer before Burnett (9-11) got an out.
``It's a lot nicer to score early and watch him relax and settle into his groove,' Branyan said of Hernandez.
Coming in, Hernandez (9-10) was 1-4 with a 2.04 ERA in his five previous outings, with Seattle scoring four runs.
``I thought (it was) real big with Felix jumping out and getting three runs on the board early,' Brown said. ``He hadn't gotten a chance to work with that very often.'
King Felix pitched a two-hitter June 30 in New York and went the distance in Seattle on July 10. He also had a complete game against the Yankees on Sept. 8 at Safeco Field. Toronto's Dave Stieb went the whole way in four consecutive starts against the Yankees from 1983-84.
Hernandez hasn't allowed an earned run in his last three starts. Despite his losing record, the right-hander lowered his ERA to 2.51, second-best in the AL.
The Mariners added two more runs against Burnett with a parade of singles in the third and fourth. In the third, Casey Kotchman followed Franklin Gutierrez's hit and stolen base with an RBI single.
The restless New York crowd booed Burnett as he gave up three more singles and Suzuki's run-scoring fielder's choice to make it 5-0 in the fourth.
The Yankees' bullpen remained quiet as the Mariners racked up 10 hits and two walks in the first five innings.
Burnett received a warmer reception as he walked off the field after a 1-2-3 seventh. He yielded 12 hits and six runs while throwing a season-high 122 pitches - 77 strikes. He struck out four and walked three.
``He didn't have command of his fastball,' Girardi said.
The Yankees loaded the bases with one out in the fifth but Hernandez struck out Ramiro Pena and Brett Gardner to end that threat.
Derek Jeter doubled with one out in the fourth for the first hit off Hernandez but was stranded at third.
Hernandez made several nice stabs on sharp grounders back to the mound. On one in the eighth, he caught Gardner in a rundown between second and third for the second out.
NOTES: The Indians chose RHP Zach McAllister from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as the player to be named in the deal that sent Austin Kearns to New York. McAllister was 8-10 with a 5.09 ERA in 24 starts for Scranton. ... Yankees RHP Alfredo Aceves, on the 60-day disabled list with a strained lower back, will throw three innings Saturday or Sunday for Double-A Trenton. ... Branyan's last multihomer game was for Cleveland on May 11 against Kansas City. ... Before Hernandez, Jamie Navarro was the previous pitcher to throw three straight complete games against the Yankees, from 1990-91 for Milwaukee.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved