SEATTLE - 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 on Tuesday night.
Rivera entered with a one-run lead in the ninth and allowed just a one-out single to Ichiro Suzuki. He was retired when catcher Russell Martin caught Ichiro trying to steal second for the final out.
Robinson Cano provided the offense with a homer and two RBIs, while starter 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 A.L. 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 Yankees’ 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 strong 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’s opportunity.
It was the 1,037th appearance of Rivera’s career, but it almost didn’t happen. Robertson labored through the eighth as Rivera started stretching out, giving up a leadoff single to Dustin Ackley and walking Justin Smoak with one-out. Robertson got Miguel Olivo swinging at a 3-2 pitch while the runners advanced. Robertson then fell behind Adam Kennedy 2-0 and issued an intentional walk to load the bases.
Trayvon Robinson came on to pinch-hit for Casper Wells, who had struck out three times already, but couldn’t do any better, striking out on a fastball and leaving the bases loaded.
Rivera then took off his jacket and started throwing moments later. He didn’t get much time to get ready with the Yankees going down quickly in the top of the ninth, but jogged in with most of the Yankees fans in attendance standing and many snapping pictures. 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. Ichiro 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 Ichiro was thrown out by Martin trying to steal second. Rivera was joined at the mound by all his teammates giving him hugs and high-fives.
It was a good day all around for the Yankees, who got Martin back behind the plate after missing 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.
Burnett allowed four hits and walked two batters. The 11 strikeouts were his most since Sept. 23, 2009, against the Angels. He retired 11 of the final 12 batters he faced.
Seattle had 17 strikeouts total.
Cano’s homer in the second inning was his 26th of the season and gave him a new career high in RBIs, surpassing last year’s total of 109. Derek Jeter also extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a leadoff single on the first pitch of the night from Furbush.