NEW YORK -- Felix Hernandez did what he usually does against the New York Yankees. However, once he departed, the Yankees continued what they've been doing fairly often for the first month and a half.
Once again, New York won a close game and got a key contribution from Lyle Overbay.
After Hernandez allowed a run and five hits in a six-inning start that was shortened because of minor back stiffness, the Yankees rallied for a 4-3 victory Tuesday night that was decided by Overbay's sacrifice fly in the seventh inning.
"We had some chances off him, but he basically did what he usually does," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I like the pressure that we put on him, but I think he actually left because of the (back). He was only around 90 pitches, and that's a guy who not's afraid to throw (more). That changeup and all the swing-and-miss stuff makes it pretty tough to score off him."
Actually, Hernandez was at 97 pitches, and he failed to reach the seventh inning for the second time in eight starts because he tweaked his back. It was initially believed that the injury occurred when Overbay landed in the middle of Hernandez's back during a collision at first base in the fourth.
"It's hard to tell," Overbay said. "I put my hands in his back, but it seemed like (a sixth-inning) play at second kind of got him."
Seattle manager Eric Wedge said that the problem occurred in the sixth when Hernandez turned to get the force at second on a ground ball by Curtis Granderson. At the time, Hernandez was working with a 3-0 lead, but on the next pitch, he hung a curveball to Overbay that turned into a RBI double off the top of the right field wall.
"I'm hoping that he's fine, and I think he will be fine," Wedge said. "When you tweak something like that on a play, which means you did something to it on a play, what you don't want to have happen is send him back out there.
"He starts compromising things, then you change your delivery and you have a chance of doing something else that's even more serious. I wasn't going to take that chance."
Had Hernandez been able to continue, he likely would have improved to 8-2 in his last 11 starts and Wedge would not have gone to the bullpen that early. Once he made the throw to second base, that changed the course of the night for both teams.
"That's a hard-luck loss for sure," Hernandez said. "It's a tough loss for us."
The Yankees capitalized on Hernandez's departure, scoring three runs against Mariners relievers Yoervis Medina and Charlie Furbush in the seventh.
New York had Chris Nelson in scoring position with one out when Furbush came on. After walking Brett Gardner on a close 3-2 pitch, the left-hander tried to beat Robinson Cano with his slider.
That did not work, as Cano crushed the pitch just in front of the right-center-field wall for a two-run, game-tying double.
"Robby got us going," Overbay said. "He puts us on his back and lets it ride after that."
That was not the only strategy that failed for the Mariners. They intentionally walked right-handed designated hitter Vernon Wells to get to left-handed hitter Curtis Granderson, but Granderson also walked, loading the bases.
That made things a bit easier for Overbay. On a full-count pitch from Furbush, Overbay lifted a fastball deep enough to center field for Cano to score the go-ahead run.
"He's had so many big hits and RBIs for us," Girardi said. "He's been really good. We managed to play him almost every day. I feel good about him whenever he's at the plate. I really do."
Overbay's fifth go-ahead RBI gave the Yankees their seventh win in eight games and came on a night when CC Sabathia kept them in the game. Sabathia allowed three runs, two on a Raul Ibanez home run in the sixth, and 10 hits while striking out 10 over 6 1/3 innings.
After Sabathia's exit, the New York bullpen continued its hot streak. Yankees relievers have pitched 23 2/3 scoreless innings over their last nine games and have allowed three runs in 35 innings this month.
Shawn Kelley (2-0) came in with runners on first and third and recorded the final two outs of the seventh. David Robertson put two on in the eighth and got out of it, and Mariano Rivera retired the side for his 16th save in as many chances.
New York emerged with its 16th victory in 21 games decided by two runs or fewer.
NOTES: Yankees DH Travis Hafner did not play due to what was termed right shoulder soreness. An MRI revealed some stiffness, but Hafner believes it's more of a day-to-day injury than anything related to previous shoulder ailments. Hafner has tailed off since hitting .318 in April. He's hitting .200 (4-for-20) this month. ... The Yankees activated Granderson and placed him in left field. Granderson had not played there since Sept. 2, 2007, in Oakland. He totaled 57 innings at the position with the Detroit Tigers. ... To make room for Granderson, the Yankees optioned RHP Vidal Nuno to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Nuno, who started Monday, said he was told he would start Saturday. ... Mariners 2B Dustin Ackley didn't start, and Wedge said numbers were a factor. Ackley is 1-for-7 off Sabathia, while Ibanez has 12 hits in 42 career at-bats against Sabathia. Ackley drew an eighth-inning walk as a pinch hitter. ... Seattle OF Franklin Gutierrez, out since April 23 with a strained right hamstring, will test his leg by doing some running Wednesday. If that goes well, he could start a rehab assignment this weekend with Triple-A Tacoma. Wedge also said that RHP Josh Kinney, who is on the 60-day disabled list with a rib injury, likely will start a rehab assignment with Tacoma.