Mariano Rivera earned his 600th save, moving within one of Trevor Hoffman’s major league record, by closing out the New York Yankees’ 3-2 win over the Seattle Mariners.
Rivera entered with a one-run lead in the ninth inning and allowed just a one-out single to Ichiro Suzuki. He was retired when catcher Russell Martin caught Suzuki trying to steal second for the final out.
Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter put the tag on Suzuki and smiled as he brought the souvenir ball to Rivera. One by one, New York players lined up to hug Rivera and give him high-fives near the mound.
“It’s a great number,” Rivera said, sounding a bit choked up by all the adulation. “I’m not a guy who looks for things like that.”
But just think, he’s racked up all those saves _ plus 42 more in the postseason _ primarily on the strength of one dominant pitch: a sizzling cut fastball.
Robinson Cano provided the Yankees offense with a homer and two RBIs, while A.J. Burnett (10-11) won for the first time since Aug. 15 thanks to a season-high 11 strikeouts. New York stayed four games in front of second-place Boston in the AL East after the Red Sox thumped Toronto 18-6.
Rivera missed out on a save chance in the series opener when the Yankees battered nemesis Felix Hernandez in a 9-3 victory. But the New York offense was kept in check Tuesday night by Charlie Furbush (3-9), who allowed just three runs and struck out six in 5 1-3 innings.
Nick Swisher’s leadoff double in the sixth eventually led to Cano’s fielder’s choice that scored Swisher with the go-ahead run. Rafael Soriano and David Robertson worked the seventh and eighth innings to set the stage for Rivera.
Nearly the entire Yankees dugout stood on the top-step railing.
Pinch-hitter Wily Mo Pena was gone on a foul-tip strike three into Martin’s glove. Suzuki then served a soft single into left field, but Rivera struck out rookie Kyle Seager.
He didn’t even need to finish pitching to Ackley as Suzuki was thrown out by Martin trying to steal. Rivera savored the opportunity to share the moment with Jeter and another longtime teammate, Jorge Posada.
“It’s a great, great moment,” Rivera said. “Definitely, they are part of my family because we spend so much time together. To see them on the top step rooting, it’s priceless.”
It was a good day all around for the Yankees, who got Martin back behind the plate after he missed the last few games with a sore thumb. Swisher was able to return to right field with the tendinitis in his left elbow calming down.
And Burnett responded with the type of performance manager Joe Girardi wanted to see. Relying mostly on his off-speed stuff, Burnett baffled Seattle’s hitters, especially Wells and Kennedy, who struck out a combined six times.
Burnett did throw a couple of wild pitches, hit a pair of batters and gave up Brendan Ryan’s two-out RBI single in the second. But he avoided major damage in the third after loading the bases with just one out. Olivo hit a sacrifice fly to pull the Mariners even at 2, then Burnett got Kennedy swinging to end the threat.