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Must C Classic: Rivera's 600th save

SEATTLE -- All was good in Yankee land Tuesday night at Safeco Field.

Not only did the Bronx Bombers keep their American League East lead at four games with a 3-2 win over Seattle, but closer Mariano Rivera inched closer to breaking the all-time saves record with his 600th career save, securing New York's third straight victory in front of 18,306.

It was save No. 41 on the season for Rivera, who needs just one more save to tie Trevor Hoffmann atop the all-time saves list.

But for a humble Rivera, the team's victory trumped any individual milestone.

"Thank God that we won," the veteran closer said afterward. "That's the most important thing."

The save didn't come in usual fashion. With two outs and Dustin Ackley at the plate, Ichiro Suzuki attempted to steal second on a 1-0 count. Russell Martin popped up quickly and threw a dart to the glove of Derek Jeter, who applied the tag and sealed the deal.

"We left him on his own right there," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said of Ichiro. "You've got to trust him. He's a great basestealer. Mariano was really quick on the hitter before and got back to the leg kick there a little bit. Ichi thought he could get it and took off, but they made a good throw. He was aggressive and they got him."

Rivera helped starter A.J. Burnett secure his first win since Aug. 15, but that may have never come had it not been for a midgame adjustment on behalf of Burnett.

The righty had labored through the first few innings, hitting two batters, throwing two wild pitches and allowing two runs, all by the end of the third frame.

But then the Arkansas native found what he called a "happy medium." During his last two starts, Burnett made a big change by moving his hands from his belt to up near his chin prior to his delivery and kept them high throughout the windup.

On Tuesday, for whatever reason, that was restricting him from whipping the ball and letting it go.

"It worked early in Boston [on Sept. 1], but I just didn't feel very powerful," he said afterward. "I didn't feel very loose. It was almost like it was more effort."

So between innings, Burnett and pitching coach Larry Rothschild talked and Burnett decided to keep his hands lower like they were before and also kept some of the new changes as well. It worked almost perfectly as the 33-year-old retired 10 of the 14 batters he faced after the third inning, giving up three hits in that span.

"It was two games," manager Joe Girardi said. "The first three innings, he struggled, and the last three innings, he was as good as he's been."

The result was a six-inning, season-high 11-strikeout performance from Burnett, who fooled the Mariners with his off-speed pitches all night.

Although it came against a struggling Mariners squad that has double-digit strikeouts in five of its last six games, Burnett held Seattle to two runs on four hits and it was good enough for his 10th win, marking his seventh straight season of 10 or more.

"It's a big confidence boost," Burnett said. "The bottom line is that I was able to make that adjustment and keep my team in the game. I had some runners on and never broke down, never broke confidence and was making pitches when I needed to."

A big credit to his performance goes to Martin, who started behind the plate after missing the past two games with a bruised right thumb. Martin stopped a flurry of Burnett pitches in the dirt.

"He loves it," said Burnett, looking across the clubhouse at his catcher. "I got one by him tonight, so I got bragging rights, but we've said it all along when he's like that back there, you have confidence."

Martin seemed to agree, with one exception.

"I do love it, except when I take it off the shoulder," said the catcher, who went 0-for-3. "Any meat part, I don't like it as much. It seems like I've been finding meat a lot lately."

Setup man David Robertson nearly lost the Yankee lead in the eighth when he loaded the bases with two out, but Robertson got pinch-hitter rookie Trayvon Robinson swinging at strike three to help set the stage for Rivera's 600th save in the ninth.

Mariners starter Charlie Furbush limited New York to two runs through five innings, but he allowed Nick Swisher to score on a Robinson Cano fielder's choice in the sixth that put the Yankees up 3-2 and ended up being the difference. 

Cano also hit a solo shot in the second and picked up his 110th RBI in the process to set a career high. That gave the Yankees an early 1-0 lead, and they added to that after an Andruw Jones double scored Jesus Montero to give New York a 2-0 advantage.

But thanks to an erratic Burnett, the Mariners came back with a run in the bottom of the frame. Miguel Olivo moved to third on Burnett's first wild pitch of the game and scored on a Brendan Ryan single two batters later.

Another Burnett wild pitch in the third inning moved Kyle Seager to third base, who later scored on an Olivo sacrifice fly.

With two more wild pitches on Tuesday night, Burnett has thrown the most wild pitches in a season of any pitcher in the last 11 years with 25. He has thrown a Major League-high 58 wild pitches since joining the Yankees in 2009.

Montero, who started at designated hitter, finished 2-for-4 with a run and is now 12-for-30 since his debut Sept. 1. Jeter extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a single in the first inning.

The Yankees could have won by even more had it not been for two baserunning gaffes Tuesday. The first came in the fourth when Montero was caught too far off second base on a grounder to shortstop Brendan Ryan, who nabbed a sliding Montero.

Then in the sixth, Montero lifted a deep fly ball to center field with one out. Cano mistakenly did not stop running from first base, and by the time Casper Wells made the catch in center, Cano was already at third base. Wells threw back to first for the easy 8-3 double play. Comments