07/09/10 2:39 AM ET
A-Rod lifts Yanks to sixth consecutive win
Two-run single in ninth rewards Pettitte with 11th victory
By Mike McCall / MLB.com
After sinking Seattle with a home run a week ago, the ex-Mariner was booed each time he came to the plate Thursday at Safeco Field, and one group of fans even threw play money in the air whenever his name was announced over the loudspeaker.
It was an entertaining distraction for the crowd of 37,432 -- many of whom are still rankled by Rodriguez's decision to leave the northwest for Texas and a $252 million payday -- but he got the last laugh.
Rodriguez scored the tying run in the eighth and drove in the Yankees' go-ahead runs in the ninth, propelling them to a 3-1 win against the Mariners and extending their win streak to six games.
The two-run single handed left-hander Andy Pettitte a well-deserved win to run his record to 11-2, and it ended a night of frustration at the plate. Rodriguez started 0-for-3, and the Yankees stranded runners in each inning (12 total) while going 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
"We have confidence we're going to come up with a big hit, but we left a lot of guys on base," Rodriguez said. "We're just thinking of one opportunity to win the game."
That opportunity arose in the ninth with Seattle closer David Aardsma on the mound. Derek Jeter walked and moved to third on Nick Swisher's double, setting the table for A-Rod. He was well behind the first pitch -- a 97 mph fastball -- but adjusted on the next pitch and whacked another heater through the right side to bring both runners home.
Mariano Rivera closed out the game with a 1-2-3 ninth, marking the 68th time he has earned a save while Pettitte takes a win, the most by any duo in Major League history since saves became an official statistic in 1969.
Pettitte is now tied with CC Sabathia for second-most wins in the American League, one behind the Rays' David Price.
"We always know Andy's going to compete," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's going to find ways to get out of jams and get double plays, but I think if someone had said Andy's going to be 11-2 at the break, it's hard to anticipate that from any pitcher. Andy works so hard and is so tough mentally; he really never gets frazzled on the mound."
That was clear in the sixth, when he suffered some self-inflicted damage but escaped further harm with a pair of clutch strikeouts. He breezed through the first five innings against baseball's second-lowest-scoring outfit -- facing just one more than the minimum number of batters -- before back-to-back line drives started a Seattle rally.
When Ichiro Suzuki laid down a bunt, Pettitte fielded it and threw wide and high to first base, an error that let in a run. He struggled with the same play against the Dodgers on June 27, when he made two throwing errors after fielding bunts, which led to two runs.
"I know [Ichiro is] running, I know I'm slow, and I just panicked. It's terrible," Pettitte said. "I just grabbed it, turned and looked over there not even focusing on where to throw. I just threw it to a group of people."
He atoned for his mistake in the coming at-bats, getting a groundout, then loading the bases with one out on an intentional walk. From there, he fanned the Mariners' fourth and fifth hitters, Russell Branyan and Jose Lopez, sinking the latter on three pitches.
"I'm just so thankful I was able to hold them to that one run because with the way that game was going, if they had scored a few more it could have been a loss instead of a win," Pettitte said. "I have to stop [making throwing errors]. That's a big-time mistake."
The inflated value of a run at Safeco Field against the Mariners wasn't lost on the Yankees. Seattle leads the league in games decided by two runs or fewer (44 in 85 games), and Rodriguez tied the score, 1-1, in the eighth with some hustle. He walked and moved to second on a single, then moved up to third when Seattle reliever Brian Sweeney threw a wild pitch.
That was key, as the batter, Jorge Posada, wound up grounding into a double play that allowed Rodriguez to score.
He was the hero -- or villain, depending on perspective -- but Swisher was the best player on the field.
Hours after being named to the AL's All-Star Game roster by virtue of winning the Final Vote, Swisher played like he was deserving of the honor. He went 4-for-4 with two doubles, a run and a walk, and he added a sliding catch in right field for good measure.
"It hasn't really sunk in yet [being an All-Star]," Swisher said. "I'm just walking on clouds today, bro. I'm just really excited about everything that's happening in my life, just all smiles man. All smiles."
Mike McCall is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.