Written for Baseball Digest Online
Mariano Rivera blew away the first two Seattle Mariners in the 9th inning last night to reach 1,000 career strikeouts and was well on his way to his 37th consecutive successfully converted save chance and a 2-1 Yankees win.
Ichiro Suzuki would never forget the game after being picked off first base not once, but twice. Then an unfunny thing happened on the way to the post-game high fives for the Yankees. Pinch-hitter Mike Sweeney narrowly missed hitting one out, driving a ball on to the warning track in right for a 2-out double. That set up a showdown between two future Hall ofFamers, Ichiro and Rivera. Moments later it was the Mariners celebrating when Ichiro hit a rare home run for a 3-2 Mariners victory.
The loss somewhat wasted a bounce back effort from A.J. Burnett, who allowed one run and scattered seven hits over seven innings. I say somewhat, because Burnett really needed a good outing for his own confidence as well as his manager’s confidence in him. He still could have picked up a victory had his team taken advantages of opportunities they had against “King” Felix Hernandez (16-5).
Derek Jeter led off the ball game with a single and Johnny Damon followed with a double. But the Yankees came away with only one run on Alex Rodriguez‘ sacrifice fly. Nick Swisher was stranded after a lead off double in the 7th and the Yankees had at least one man on in seven of the nine innings.
The Yankees went ahead in the 7th when Damon doubled for the second time, moved to third on a passed ball, and scored on Mark Teixeira’s sac fly.
But despite the one run lead, the Yankees had the ball in the right hands. Rivera hadn’t blown a save since April 24 when Boston’s Jason Bay slugged a 2-run home run off of him up in Fenway Park. He had only been scored upon once in the last two months.
And things seemed normal when Rivera (3-3) struck out John Hannahan looking to give the M’s infielder the “Golden Sombrero” and then blew an inside fastball past a swinging pinch-hitter Mike Carp for the 2nd out.
Mo breathed a sigh relief when Sweeney’s opposite field fly seemed destined to leave the park, but short hopped the wall instead. Then Rivera’s first pitch cutter to Ichiro didn’t move and the M’s right fielder deposited the ball deep into the right field seats for his 10th home run. It was Ichiro’s fourth hit of the game, second walk-off hit of the week and third game winning home run of the season for the Mariners.
The Yankees announced that Sergio Mitre’s turn will be skipped when the Yankees open a series with the Angels on Monday. Chad Gaudin, who pitched effectively against the Blue Jays, will take his turn.
CC Sabathia goes after his 18th win this afternoon (4:10 p.m. ET) when he faces rookie Doug Fister.