SEATTLE — Alex Rodriguez punched a two-run single into right field in the ninth inning to give the Yankees their first lead, 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-best fifth in a row away from home thanks to Andy Pettitte and a former Mariners star who still gets booed lustily every time he returns to Seattle.
The Yankees struggled to move runners until the ninth. After Derek Jeter’s one-out walk, Nick Swisher capped an All-Star day with his fourth hit, a double that sent Jeter to third.
Mark Teixeira fouled out but Rodriguez fought off David Aardsma’s fastball and pushed it through the right side of the infield 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 week ago at Yankee Stadium.
This one came on the 16th anniversary of A-Rod’s major league debut 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 fans treated me great.”
It was the 19th time this season Seattle has lost in the opponent’s final at-bat.
Pettitte (11-2), headed to the All-Star game next week, won his third straight decision, pitching into the eighth and giving up only one run that was partly his fault. The left-hander yielded five hits, allowed just one baserunner between the first and sixth and struck out nine.
Swisher was a hitting star for New York on the day he won an Internet vote for the final spot on the AL All-Star roster. A day after coming a triple shy of the cycle, Swisher reached base five times, including a pair of doubles.
Making his first appearance since pulling out of the All-Star game Tuesday due to nagging injuries, Rivera struck out Casey Kotchman on the 12th pitch of the at-bat, got a weak grounder from Josh Bard and Josh Wilson’s lineout for his 20th save in 22 chances.
It was the 68th time Rivera saved a win for Pettitte, extending their major league record.
Seattle had a few chances against Pettitte, scoring once in the sixth but missing an opportunity at a big inning.
Wilson started the inning with a single, the second Seattle batter to reach base since the first inning. Michael Saunders showed a sacrifice bunt attempt, pulled back and laced a single to center just over the outstretched glove of Jeter.
Ichiro Suzuki then laid down a sacrifice bunt and Pettitte threw wildly to first, allowing Wilson to score and the runners to advance on the error.
Then came the failures.
Chone Figgins grounded out to third, and after Franklin Gutierrez was intentionally walked to load the bases, Pettitte struck 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 though he put runners on in every inning. Vargas pitched seven shutout innings, only to find trouble in the eighth.
Rodriguez walked on four pitches to start the inning and moved to second on Robinson Cano’s single. That was the end for Vargas, and Rodriguez moved to third when reliever Brian Sweeney bounced a wild pitch to Jorge Posada in the dirt. Posada later grounded into a double play, but Rodriguez scored.