Yanks stun Mariners to sweep series
Eighth-inning rally lifts Bombers to their fifth straight victory
NEW YORK -- A guy without much speed and a catcher without much offense to his game were the pivotal players in the Yankees' eighth-inning comeback against the slumping Mariners on Sunday.
Hideki Matsui was the big man on the bases, and catcher Jose Molina provided the key hit at the plate during a four-run eighth inning that enabled the Yankees to come from behind to beat the Mariners, 6-5, before a sellout crowd of 54,269 at Yankee Stadium.
New York got back to .500 (25-25) by extending its win streak to a season-high five games. Seattle headed home winless from its six-game road trip, while also dropping all six contests at Yankee Stadium this May.
"We got contributions from everyone, especially there in the last inning with walks and with timely hits," said shortstop Derek Jeter, who got the rally started by drawing a leadoff walk. "We pretty much did a lot of things right.
"It's not like anyone is trying to do too much. It's like everyone is trying to do what they can."
The Yankees had three come-from-behind victories during their 5-3 homestand -- 11 total for the season -- but Sunday's effort was the team's first win this season in a game that it trailed after seven innings.
The Mariners, who have now lost six straight games, seemed to finally be having a positive day. They scored five runs against Yankees right-hander Chien-Ming Wang, who is 0-2 with two no-decisions in his past four starts after starting the season 6-0. But Seattle put runners on first and third in the top of the eighth, and it was unable to score against reliever Edwar Ramirez (1-0), who replaced Wang with one out in the seventh.
But Jeter, who doubled home the Yankees' first run to tie the game at 1 after Johnny Damon hit a two-out double to right in the third, worked the count full off Mariners reliever Sean Green and walked to start the eighth.
"We got a pretty good feeling, because now you are in the middle of the order, and the guys that grind out at-bats day in and day out and get long counts are up," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You know they are going to have to make changes. So you feel pretty good about it."
Green was quickly replaced by an ineffective Arthur Rhodes. Bobby Abreu, hitless in his first three at-bats, worked a full count against Rhodes and then doubled deep into right-center to draw the Yankees to within two runs. Rhodes was replaced by Mariners closer J.J. Putz, who walked Alex Rodriguez off a full count and watched Jason Giambi become angry after the designated hitter looked at a called strike three.
Matsui, pinch-hitting for Shelley Duncan, hit a slow bouncer between the mound and first base. Putz charged off the mound, lunged headfirst, got a hold of the ball, juggled it, unwisely flipped the ball to 6-foot-8 first baseman Richie Sexson and then sprawled on his belly on the grass. The ball, which was ruled a hit, soared over Sexson's head for a throwing error into foul territory, enabling Abreu to score and sending Rodriguez to third.
"I didn't necessarily think it was going to be a hit, but when I saw him dive, I got a little more excited," Girardi said. "And when I saw him kind of fumble it the first time, I got really excited. And when he throws it over the head of the tallest first baseman in the league, you are ecstatic."
Robinson Cano, who had walked and scored New York's second run in the fifth, hit a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Rodriguez with the tying run. Matsui took off for second and made it ahead of Ichiro Suzuki's throw.
"Those are the little things that kind of go unnoticed," Jeter said. "Ichiro has a good arm, but Matsui didn't hesitate. It was big, because it put him in scoring position. He knows how to play the game. He does all the little things whenever he is playing, so I wasn't surprised by it. He took a chance, and I think he caught Ichiro a little flat-footed."
Molina, who went 1-for-3 in the game, delivered a high drive into right-center. Ichiro, who had been playing shallow and shaded a bit toward left, chased after it, but he didn't come close to catching the double that decided the game.
"I thought he was going to catch it," Molina said. "But I knew the ball was carrying, too. I was happy it fell."
Closer Mariano Rivera took the mound for the top of the ninth and sent the Mariners home disappointed after his 12th save of the season.
"This is where we need to be," Damon said, as the Yankees were preparing for their trip to Baltimore, where they will play on Monday night. "Nothing went our way for a while. But these last couple of games, we're finding some luck, we're finding some good swings and we're finding some hits."
Kit Stier is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.