The Yankees' ace retired the first 19 Mariners to face him en route to a 4-1 victory, but it was the opinion of many of his teammates that the first of two rain delays short-circuited Sabathia's bid for history.
"Without those delays, he just had it going," said third baseman Eric Chavez. "There was no doubt in my mind that he was going to throw a no-hitter. He looked unhittable. He looked nasty."
The tarpaulin was called for after Sabathia struck out Mike Carp swinging for the first out of the sixth inning, Sabathia's seventh straight strikeout and his 11th on the way to a career-high 14.
"That's part of the game," Sabathia said. "It happens and you can't dwell on it."
After a 30-minute delay, Sabathia came back and completed the sixth, losing his perfect game when Brendan Ryan connected with a 2-0 fastball for a single with one out in the seventh inning.
Another delay of 14 minutes followed the top half of the seventh, and Sabathia lost his release point when he returned for the eighth. But everyone had already been wowed by the first 5 1/3 innings.
"Pretty invincible stuff," Ryan said. "He's always got Sabathia stuff, but today that was, by far, the best I've ever seen him pitch. 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."
Looking on from the bullpen, Yankees reliever Dave Robertson said Sabathia certainly had no-hit stuff.
"I was watching the whole thing and I thought he was unbelievable," Robertson said. "He was locked in and wasn't missing with any of his pitches. He was getting ahead 0-2 on everybody. It was an awesome outing for him. I wish he would have kept it going and gone nine innings to get what he was going for."
Mark Teixeira said there were no guarantees about what might have happened, but he liked Sabathia's chances.
"I think it's a better chance," Teixeira said. "Those rain delays are tough. The first one is tough, but once the second one hit, it was really tough to be out there. You never know. No rain, he might have had a perfect game."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi knew Sabathia's bid was in trouble when he saw head groundskeeper Dan Cunningham poking his head up from a tunnel, eyeing the umpires for a chat. At that point, he knew Mother Nature would have a say in the outcome.
"You'll never know," Girardi said. "He was so sharp before the rain delay. I thought his slider got a little bit bigger after the rain delay; I didn't think he was quite as sharp. We'll never know, but golly, that 5 1/3 [innings], he was brilliant."