Cabrera's long ball sinks Mariners
Rain accompanies late Yanks' comeback in Ponson debut
NEW YORK -- Sidney Ponson always wanted to be a Yankee partly because of the way they never quit.
The Yankees reminded Ponson of that in his pinstripes debut Tuesday night, coming from two runs behind in the bottom of the ninth and winning on a walk-off homer by Melky Cabrera in the 11th to beat Seattle, 5-4, after a nearly two-hour rain delay.
It was the Yankees' ninth win in their past 10 games and fifth straight since coming back from the All-Star break, but they still are a half-game behind the Red Sox in the American League East.
Cabrera lead off the 11th by ripping a slider off Julio Mateo inches over the right-field wall for his fourth homer of his career and first walk-off. He didn't think the ball was going to clear the fence, but raised both hands above his head in triumph after rounding first base. After tossing off his helmet, Cabrera was joined by a mob of teammates at home plate.
"I'm very happy because I hadn't even done that in the Minor Leagues and the fact that it happened in the Major Leagues makes it doubly better," Cabrera said through a translator.
When rain finally cooled down Yankee Stadium in the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees heated up.
Down two runs and with Seattle closer J.J. Putz and his 2.06 ERA and 17 saves on the hill, the Yankees sent the bottom of the lineup to the plate. That's when the heavy rains starting falling.
Andy Phillips led off with a double to right field, then Cabrera struck out. Pinch-hitter Aaron Guiel singled home Phillips and pinch-runner Bubba Crosby advanced on a wild pitch that seemed to slip out of Putz's hand. Jorge Posada reached on an infield single that eventually got Seattle manager Mike Hargrove tossed for arguing. The hit put runners on first and third with one out.
Johnny Damon hit the first pitch he saw for an easy sacrifice fly to tie the game at 4. Alex Rodriguez, who did not start the game because of a toe injury suffered in Monday's game, worked a 3-1 count before umpire crew chief Mike Reilly called for the tarp.
"Any team that came back the way we did has that feeling with the momentum on our side, especially with their closer in the game," Torre said.
Rodriguez stuck out looking, putting the Yankees in a precarious situation with all the substitutions. Crosby remained in the game at center field, Phillips moved to second base for the first time in his Major League career and Damon came in from center to play first base for the first time in his professional career.
Kyle Farnsworth and Scott Proctor held the Mariners down until Cabrera's game-winning shot sent the then-depleted crowd into hysteria.
The crowd had earlier shown Ponson respect with a standing ovation, even though he allowed four runs in 6 2/3 innings. Despite what the scoreboard said, Ponson pitched better than any other No. 5 Yankees starter this season.
"He bulldogged it," Torre said. "There was a lot of grinding and grunting. He just wasn't as sharp today as he can be. But he gave us a huge start today."
Ponson was rarely in trouble, but unlike teammate Chien-Ming Wang on Monday, he struggled to get out of it when he was.
Ponson had a one-hitter through his first four innings, but that one hit was a three-run homer by Richie Sexson, who entered the game with 11 hits in 22 at-bats with three homers off Ponson in his career.
The problem was Ponson also allowed three walks. He walked leadoff man Ichiro Suzuki and No. 3 hitter Jose Lopez in the first. Sexson took the first pitch he saw far over the right-field fence to give Seattle a lead it wouldn't relinquish until the ninth.
Ponson didn't allow a hit in the next three innings and struck out the side in the fourth. Before the game, Torre said Ponson was no longer a strikeout pitcher, but Ponson notched a season-high five punchouts in his Yankees debut.
The Mariners added another run in the fifth, when Yuniesky Betancourt led off with a single, stole second base and scored on a bloop single by Ichiro that would have easily been caught had the infield not been in. Back-to-back two-out singles knocked Ponson out of the game in the seventh.
But after the game Ponson was satisfied with his performance and even more thankful for his teammates.
"I didn't put us in a deep hole," said Ponson, who received a no-decision. "It was 4-2 when I left the game and with these guys, three or four runs [and] it's not over. These guys keep fighting and fighting and it's really good to see. To sit out two hours and still win the game, it's huge."
Ryan Mink is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.