NEW YORK -- Mother Nature was pretty much the only thing capable of stopping CC Sabathia on Tuesday night. Having postponed two Major League games in the past three weeks with her rain, she had two more victories during that period of time than the Seattle Mariners, who had none.
A 17th consecutive loss for the Mariners appeared to be a foregone conclusion by the fourth inning on Tuesday, when Curtis Granderson's solo home run broke a scoreless tie. What was in doubt, what kept Yankee Stadium alive and anxious before and after a 30-minute rain delay, was whether any Mariners player would do so much as reach first base against the Yankees' ace.
The answer came in the form of a Brendan Ryan single with one out in the seventh inning, until that point the only blemish on Sabathia in the Yankees' eventual 4-1 win. Sabathia, who had fallen behind 2-0 to Ryan, recovered by striking out the next two batters, his last resulting in a career-high 14 punchouts on the night.
With Eric Chavez stepping to the plate to lead off the bottom of the inning, rain started to fall again, sending grounds crew members onto the field, where they returned less than 10 minutes later after the second wave of showers had passed.
"To me, there was no doubt that if there were none of those rain delays he was going to throw a no-hitter," said Chavez, who had a fourth-inning RBI single in his return from the 60-day disabled list.
Sabathia's final line -- seven-plus innings, one hit, one run -- did not convey his dominance before weather interrupted the evening.
Sabathia said he realized his predicament and the chance at history from pitch No. 1, a 92-mph fastball that Ichiro Suzuki hit to center for an out.
"That's just me I guess," Sabathia said. "Some guys say that they didn't know."
Sabathia would need just six more pitches to get through the opening inning, and the big left-hander was unable to match that efficiency in any other frame. He can blame only himself for that, for not giving Seattle hitters many chances to put the ball in play for quick outs.
Between the fourth and sixth innings, Sabathia struck out seven straight batters, the most dramatic coming on a 96-mph fastball that Franklin Gutierrez watched cross the plate to end the fifth. The crowd roared seconds before home-plate umpire Bob Davidson delivered an animated third-strike call, and it roared even louder afterward.
"He's always got Sabathia stuff, but today that was, by far, the best I've ever seen him pitch," Ryan said. "I almost feel disrespectful saying that, because we all know what he's capable of, but when you're locating the fastball and the way he was throwing that slider, stealing strikes with that curveball here and there, he was absolutely filthy."
Coming off an eight-inning, two-run outing Thursday that resulted in his first loss since June 9, Sabathia became the Majors' first 15-game winner Tuesday, throwing 102 pitches over seven-plus innings that withstood two rain delays totaling 44 minutes.
Sabathia threw during the the game's first delay, but said he lost his command after the second one, which lasted 14 minutes. He walked the first three batters he faced to start the eighth inning before manager Joe Girardi came out to get him in favor of David Robertson.
Sabathia refused to blame his lost perfect game on the weather.
"That's part of the game," he said. "It happens and you can't dwell on it. I'm looking forward to my next start."
Robertson struck out Adam Kennedy for his 10th straight strikeout while pitching with the bases loaded before Chone Figgins reached on a fielder's choice at third that resulted in the lone Seattle run. Suzuki went down looking to end the threat.
In the eighth inning, Mark Teixeira's 100th home run as a Yankee snuck over the fence in right to make it 4-1. The blast was Teixeira's 28th of the season, tying him atop the team with Granderson, whose team home run lead lasted just four innings.
Mariano Rivera struck out two in a perfect ninth, giving the Yankees 18 strikeouts and matching a team single-game record set by Ron Guidry on June 17, 1978, against the Angels.
Sabathia has now struck out at least eight batters in seven consecutive starts. In nine starts since his June 9 loss to the Red Sox, the southpaw is 8-1 with a 1.71 ERA. He has 81 strikeouts in 68 2/3 innings during that stretch.
He credited Francisco Cervelli for calling a good game, prompting the catcher to call him a "liar."
"He's got the ball, so he throws what he wants," Cervelli said with a laugh. "I just try to be on the same page."
Girardi had been on a similar page with David Cone some 12 years earlier, when the former caught the latter's perfect game a block away. That game, too, withstood a brief delay -- 33 minutes, to be exact -- and, coincidentally, Cone had been in the Yankees' clubhouse prior to Tuesday's contest, leading Make-A-Wish kids.
Girardi could not escape the symmetry, admitting to thinking of Cone during Tuesday's first rain delay.
Despite the stoppages, the game managed to end at 10:19 p.m. ET, considered a normal night by Bronx standards when anyone but Sabathia is on the hill for the home team.
Sabathia's presence and command in the nearly two hours before rainfall had everyone in the dugout and stands wondering if history was inevitable.
"It's one of those nights he's rolling along so well, it's just like, 'Please, don't stop this game,'" Girardi said. "But can't fight Mother Nature."
Matt Fortuna is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.