SEATTLE - It was a vote of confidence Yankees fans have heard before and, in the early- morning hours Sunday, probably weren't in the mood to hear again.
"I still believe in him," manager Joe Girardi said after Joba Chamberlain gave up an eighth-inning grand slam that laid waste to Javier Vazquez's best performance of the season and led to a 4-1 loss to the Mariners Saturday night at Safeco Field.
"I didn't do the job," Chamberlain said.
When he got to the ballpark Friday, Vazquez shrugged off the Yankees' near-acquisition of Cliff Lee and subsequent rumors that had him possibly being traded.
He then showed exactly how undistracted he was, holding the Mariners hitless for 52/3 innings and to three hits and no runs in outdueling Felix Hernandez for seven innings.
But a 1-0 lead evaporated at the hands of Chamberlain (1-4). He allowed only his second home run of the season, but it was a big one - a one-out grand slam by Jose Lopez in the eighth.
"I definitely let Javy down," Chamberlain said. "It was tremendous the way he went out and pitched. I have to go out there and protect that one-run lead for all the hard work he did."
Vazquez, with his best changeup of the season, walked two, struck out seven and saw his ERA drop to 4.45. It had been 9.78 on May 1.
But that was overshadowed by Chamberlain's disastrous eighth, which ended the Yankees' winning streak at seven games and dropped their record on this West Coast trip to 5-1 with one game remaining.
It started with No. 9 hitter Jack Wilson sending Chamberlain's first pitch into center for a single. Ichiro Suzuki hit a comebacker to Chamberlain, who got the force at second, but Ichiro beat out the potential double-play ball. Chone Figgins looped a single to left, and with dangerous Russell Branyan at the plate, Chamberlain's wild pitch put runners on second and third.
The Yankees intentionally walked Branyan, bringing Lopez to the plate. Chamberlain fell behind him 2-and-0 before he jumped on a 96-mph fastball left up high and sent it over the wall in left for a grand slam and a 4-1 lead.
"It's part of the game," Vazquez said of the tough loss.
Chamberlain, whose ERA rose to 5.79, saw his odd season continue. In five of his appearances, he has allowed 17 earned runs in a total of three innings. In his other 34 appearances, he has allowed seven earned runs in 341/3 innings.
"He was struggling with his command tonight," Girardi said. "We talk about when Joba struggles with his command, those are the nights that are usually a little rough for him."
But Girardi, who officially named Chamberlain as Mariano Rivera's setup man the third week of the season, said the erratic righty still is his man.
"He'll bounce back," Girardi said. "I'm going to send him back out there."
The Yankees threatened in the ninth when Curtis Granderson led off with a double and reached third with one out on pinch hitter Derek Jeter's infield single. But Hernandez struck out pinch hitter Jorge Posada and Brett Gardner, both looking, to end the game.
Hernandez (7-5) allowed 10 hits - including Nick Swisher's 15th home run - and two walks and struck out nine. He threw 126 pitches in the complete-game victory, his second against the Yankees (55-32) this season; he pitched a two-hit shutout against them June 30.
Vazquez's no-hit bid ended with two outs in the sixth when Ichiro hit a ground shot that bounced off the pitcher's thigh and trickled to his right. Vazquez hurried his throw and Mark Teixeira couldn't dig it out of the dirt.
Ichiro became the Mariners' first baserunner since Branyan walked in the first inning, with Vazquez retiring 15 straight after that.
"I definitely felt great out there," Vazquez said. "I located really well tonight. A lot of my pitches were working good tonight. It's probably the best game, at least location-wise, I've had [this season].''
The Mariners (35-52) added their second hit in the seventh on a chopper back through the middle by Lopez. Franklin Gutierrez followed with the Mariners' hardest-hit ball to that point, a line-drive single to left.
Justin Smoak, the centerpiece of the Lee trade, struck out - and heard some boos as he retreated to the dugout - but Vazquez walked Michael Saunders to load the bases.
Girardi went out to talk to Vazquez as switch hitter Milton Bradley pinch hit for Rob Johnson. Girardi had Damaso Marte warming in the bullpen but left Vazquez in. That paid off as Bradley hit a broken-bat liner that shortstop Ramiro Peña leaped for and caught behind the bag at second for the third out.
"I jammed him and I thought it was going to drop,'' said Vazquez, who leaped off the mound and punched his glove after the out.
The Yankees took a 1-0 lead in the third when Swisher, who earlier in the day accepted an invitation to participate in Monday's Home Run Derby in Anaheim, hit a two-out homer.
"With a guy that has so much movement going down, I think the approach is you have to look for a ball up and hope he makes some mistakes and be patient and try to just put some tough at-bats on him and make him work," Girardi said of facing Hernandez. "If his stuff is not good and you're swinging early, you might get some hits, but if his stuff is good and you're swinging early, he's going to be around a long time."
Gardner, hitting leadoff with Jeter resting, started the game with a single up the middle. Swisher flew out and, with Teixeira at the plate, Gardner took off for second. Mariners catcher Johnson's throw beat Gardner, who was tagged out by Wilson. It marked the sixth time in 31 tries Gardner has been caught stealing this season.
When Teixeira followed with a single, the Yankees already had as many hits as they did in nine innings against Hernandez June 30. But Alex Rodriguez flew out to end the first.
The Yankees looked as if they'd add to their 1-0 lead in the fourth. Rodriguez reached on an infield single and Robinson Cano singled to right. But Granderson lined out to left and Colin Curtis and Francisco Cervelli grounded out.
"It's a tough game," Girardi said. "It's unfortunate we weren't able to hold the lead."