New York Yankees'manager Joe Girardi, left, points as, Alex Rodriguez,...

New York Yankees'manager Joe Girardi, left, points as, Alex Rodriguez, middle, leaves the game after being hit by a pitch in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners. (July 24, 2012) Credit: AP

SEATTLE -- The eighth-inning pitch came in high and tight and Alex Rodriguez had time to do little more than brace for impact.

The 88-mph Felix Hernandez changeup caught the third baseman flush on the left hand and A-Rod immediately dropped to the dirt, soon after tended to by manager Joe Girardi and members of the Yankees training staff.

Rodriguez, whose second half of 2011 was derailed by injuries to his right knee and left thumb, suffered an injury that likely will cost him much of the rest of this season, if not all.

He left the Yankees' 4-2 loss to the Mariners with a fracture of the left fifth metacarpal, the bone that extends to the pinkie.

"Tough break," said Rodriguez, who will fly with the team back to New York after Wednesday's game. "I never thought fracture but it was. It's tough.''

The Yankees did not give a timeline for his return but Eric Chavez, who in the short term at least will receive most of the playing time at third, suffered a similar injury in 2004 on his right hand.

"I broke the same [bone],'' Chavez said. "I think it was eight weeks right on the day.''

Chavez actually missed 33 games with the injury while playing for Oakland in 2004, according to the Yankees media guide.

Rodriguez, who turns 37 Friday, went 1-for-2 and had been hitting better of late, in a 21-for-62 (.339) stretch coming into the game.

"It's a big loss,'' Mark Teixeira said. "Alex had really been swinging the bat well lately. You were hoping he was going on one of those tears where he could carry you for a couple weeks. Now we're going to have to find someone else to do that. No one's going to replace him but we have guys who can step up.''

Rodriguez is hitting .276 with a .357 on-base percentage and .449 slugging percentage. He has 15 homers and 44 RBIs.

"I like the way he's been swinging the bat,'' Girardi said. "It's really unfortunate. Those are those freak injuries.''

A question now becomes will the Yankees, who just traded for Ichiro to improve their outfield depth and are still monitoring the pitching market, start exploring the possibility of adding a bat.

Hernandez (9-5, 2.80) allowed two runs and four hits in 71/3 innings, losing his command at the end, hitting three of the last five batters he faced. He drilled former teammate Ichiro (right foot) -- who doubled in the fifth inning -- in the seventh, and Derek Jeter (on the left arm) and Rodriguez in the eighth.

"It wasn't intentional,'' Jeter said, echoing the feeling in the manager's office and clubhouse. "Close game at the time, Al got hit with a changeup. Just one of those freak things''

The Yankees (58-39) have experienced a few of those kinds of injuries this season with high-profile players, starting with Mariano Rivera and then Andy Pettitte.

"We lost Mo, we lost Andy, now we lost Al,'' Jeter said. "But you find out how good you are. Other guys are going to have to step up. We can't feel sorry for ourselves because no one else is going to. It will be a challenge. But it's been a challenge for all the injuries we've had this year.''

The Yankees (58-39) trailed 3-1 going into the eighth and scored , on Mark Teixeira's sacrifice fly that brought in Jeter to make it 3-2. Hernandez, who came into the game 4-0 with a 1.36 ERA was at his best with runners on as the Yankees went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position against him.

Curtis Granderson's 27th home run, a line shot to right on a 94-mph sinker that stayed up, gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead in the first inning.

Freddy Garcia (4-4, 5.16), making his fifth start since being reinserted in the rotation, pitched well, allowing three runs and five hits in seven innings.

The Mariners tied it at 1 in the bottom half of the inning when Michael Saunders pounded an 88-mph fastball to deep right for his 10th homer of the year.

After Jesus Montero's broken-bat single in the third gave the Mariners (43-56) a 2-1 lead, Garcia retired the last 15 he faced, a streak starting with John Jaso's sacrifice fly that made it 3-1 in the inning.

"I felt really good, I felt I had everything,'' Garcia said. "The only guy who hit a ball really hard was Saunders.''

But his primary thought afterward, the case throughout the clubhouse, was the loss of Rodriguez.

"It's really too bad what happened to Alex,'' Garcia said. "Hopefully it's not really bad.''

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