Another night, another win, and the Yankees got even closer to a playoff spot. But will it be as the AL Wild Card representative or as the AL East division winner? The once unthinkable became even more realistic when the Yankees 2-1 win moved them 1.5 games back of Boston in the AL East. The Red Sox lost to the Blue Jays in Toronto 6-1 as the once untouchable Jon Papelbon gave up a grand slam to that mighty slugger, Russ Adams. The win reduced the magic number in the Wild Card to 5, with Detroit having lost earlier in the day.
The crowd went crazy in the Bronx during the top of the 9th inning when the Sox score was posted on the Stadium scoreboard. Meanwhile, Mariano Rivera was working himself into a 9th inning, bases loaded jam that finally ended when he struck out Scott Moore looking to lock up the win, the 200th of Andy Pettitte's career.
Pettitte left with 2 out in the 8th to a standing ovation. He became the 1st player selected by the Yankees in the amateur draft to win 200 games in a Yankees uniform. The feat was made even more special in front of the home crowd, who wished Pettitte had never left the Yankees as a free agent after the 2003 season.
The crowd buzz went up a notch, when a change in the "Joba Rules" brought Joba Chamberlain into the middle of an inning for the first time. He quickly dispatched Melvin Mora with a strikeout to finish the 8th.
Hideki Matsui continued to get his swing back, putting the Yankees on the board in the 2nd with his 25th home run off of Brian Burres. It left him 1 RBI shy of the century mark. The Yankees scored the run that would make the difference in the 5th.
Doug Mientkiewicz, making his 4th start in a row, singled and moved up to 2nd on a 1-out single by Derek Jeter. Both runners moved up on a Bobby Abreu ground out and Mientkiewicz raced home on Burres' wild pitch. Alex Rodriguez narrowly missed breaking the game open when his long fly to left fell shy of the wall and into the glove of Brendan Fahey for the inning's final out. The Yankees manged just 5 hits off the rookie left-hander, Burres, in 7.1 innings pitched.
Brian Roberts manufactured the Orioles only run in the 6th. After drawing a 1-out walk, the speedy 2nd Baseman stole 2nd and 3rd, and came home on Mora's single to center. Then it was up to Mariano to save his long-time teammate's special victory. And it wasn't easy.
Rivera retired Miguel Tejada to start the inning, but Nick Markakis hit a bloop to shallow right that bounced high in the air, allowing Markakis to reach 2nd with a double. After retiring the dangerous Kevin Millar for the 2nd out, Rivera worked carefully to Aubrey Huff, who was 7-16 lifetime against the Yankees closer. It resulted in a walk, and when Ramon Hernandez followed with a walk, the bases were suddenly loaded. But pinch-hitter Scott Moore, who only had 35 big league at-bats coming into the game, looked clearly over matched, and looked at a called 3rd strike on the outside corner.
Derek Jeter's 1 hit gave him 2,341 for his career, one shy of Joe Torre.
Mariano Rivera notched his 30th save for the 10th consecutive season.