Mariners Bullpen Loses It Again Against Yankees

SportsAlex RodriguezNick SwisherCasey KotchmanMariano RiveraJorge PosadaIchiro Suzuki

Alex Rodriguez punched a two-run single intoright field in the ninth inning to give the Yankees their firstlead, and Mariano Rivera closed out New York's 3-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Thursday night.

The Yankees won their sixth straight overall and season-bestfifth in a row away from home thanks to Andy Pettitte and a formerMariners star who still gets booed lustily every time he returns toSeattle.

The Yankees struggled to move runners until the ninth. After Derek Jeter's one-out walk, Nick Swisher capped an All-Star daywith his fourth hit, a double that sent Jeter to third.

Mark Teixeira fouled out but Rodriguez fought off DavidAardsma's fastball and pushed it through the right side of theinfield to give New York a 3-1 edge.

It was only the second time Rodriguez got a hit off Aardsma(0-6). The other was a decisive homer in the eighth inning a weekago at Yankee Stadium.

This one came on the 16th anniversary of A-Rod's major leaguedebut with Seattle, which came 19 days before his 19th birthday.

"That means I'm getting old, for one, and a lot has happened,"Rodriguez said. "But this is a special place for me. The fanstreated me great."

It was the 19th time this season Seattle has lost in theopponent's final at-bat.

Pettitte (11-2), headed to the All-Star game next week, won histhird straight decision, pitching into the eighth and giving uponly one run that was partly his fault. The left-hander yieldedfive hits, allowed just one baserunner between the first and sixthand struck out nine.

Swisher was a hitting star for New York on the day he won anInternet vote for the final spot on the AL All-Star roster. A dayafter coming a triple shy of the cycle, Swisher reached base fivetimes, including a pair of doubles.

Making his first appearance since pulling out of the All-Stargame Tuesday due to nagging injuries, Rivera struck out CaseyKotchman on the 12th pitch of the at-bat, got a weak grounder fromJosh Bard and Josh Wilson's lineout for his 20th save in 22chances.

It was the 68th time Rivera saved a win for Pettitte, extendingtheir major league record.

Seattle had a few chances against Pettitte, scoring once in thesixth but missing an opportunity at a big inning.

Wilson started the inning with a single, the second Seattlebatter to reach base since the first inning. Michael Saundersshowed a sacrifice bunt attempt, pulled back and laced a single tocenter just over the outstretched glove of Jeter.

Ichiro Suzuki then laid down a sacrifice bunt and Pettitte threwwildly to first, allowing Wilson to score and the runners toadvance on the error.

Then came the failures.

Chone Figgins grounded out to third, and after FranklinGutierrez was intentionally walked to load the bases, Pettittestruck out Russell Branyan (looking) and Jose Lopez (swinging).

Lopez went 0 for 4 and saw just six pitches.

Jason Vargas made up for Seattle's lack of offense even thoughhe put runners on in every inning. Vargas pitched seven shutoutinnings, only to find trouble in the eighth.

Rodriguez walked on four pitches to start the inning and movedto second on Robinson Cano's single. That was the end for Vargas,and Rodriguez moved to third when reliever Brian Sweeney bounced awild pitch to Jorge Posada in the dirt. Posada later grounded intoa double play, but Rodriguez scored.

NOTES: Mariners LHP Cliff Lee said in a radio interview Thursdaythat the Mariners decided to wait and not start negotiations on acontract extension during spring training. Later in the day, Leesaid there have been no talks since the spring and that fact is"not an issue." Lee starts for Seattle on Friday. ... Pettitte'sstart was his 392nd with the Yankees, moving him into second placeon the franchise list.

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