SEATTLE — Brandon Bantz, a Double-A catcher a week ago, symbolized the gap in talent and experience between the Seattle Mariners and the New York Yankees.
Playing in his first big league game, Bantz had to face crafty 40-year-old Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte. Starting his 501st career game, Pettitte (5-3) earned his 250th career victory with a 3-1 victory over the Mariners on Saturday. The Yankees’ closer, 43-year-old Mariano Rivera, earned the 630th save of his career, adding to his major league record.
“We tried to make adjustments and he adjusted right back,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said of Pettitte. “He’s amazing. There are a couple of guys over there that have had amazing careers and are still doing it at the highest level.”
Pettitte, who turns 41 on June 15, allowed three hits over 7 1-3 innings. He is the 47th pitcher in major league history to reach that 250-win milestone.
As the game ended, he also learned that his son, Josh, with him in the dugout, was drafted in the 37th round by the Yankees. He is a right-hand pitcher for Deer Park (Texas) High School.
“I’ll remember this one, that’s for sure,” said Pettitte, who also picked up his 213th victory as Yankee, putting him third on the franchise’s career list behind Whitey Ford (236) and Red Ruffing (231).
Bantz, who is not much older than Josh Pettitte, went 0 for 2 with a groundout and was one of Pettitte’s six strikeouts.
Bantz arrived Wednesday after catcher Jesus Sucre was injured and was a little out of sorts when he stepped up to his first big league at-bat in the third inning. The scoreboard flashed that it was his debut at-bat and many in the crowd of 38,252 joined in a rousing greeting.
“That was something. I didn’t expect it at all,” Bantz said. “Brought chills to my body. I didn’t know what to do. Do I wait? Do I let them keep going? Or do I step in?
“It was like I don’t know what I’m doing here and Laz (umpire Laz Diaz) looks at me and says, ‘You’re not stepping in until you give them a wave.’ And I said, ‘What?’ I said OK and did. That was something. I’ll never forget that moment there.”
Bantz actually took off his batting helmet briefly and nodded to the crowd.
The Mariners couldn’t overcome a near two-decade combination that is among the most successful of all time. Rivera has saved 71 of Pettitte’s games, the most by any pitching combination since the save rule was established.
“I have the same joy he has, knowing that I’ve been there for every one of them,” Rivera said. “I’ve been able to contribute a little bit to his success. I’m as happy as he is.
“He pitched a tremendous game today. To be there for his 250, that’s special. That’s a great number. He’s been through tough games; he’s been there for us.”
Rivera, who has 22 saves in 23 opportunities so far in what is expected to his last season, is 36 of 38 for his career in save opportunities against the Mariners.
The Mariners could take some solace in the fact that Pettitte is 12-13 in 26 career starts against them, the only American League team he has a losing record against.
Jayson Nix had a pair of RBI singles and Brett Gardner had three hits, including two doubles.
The Yankees scored a two-out run off Joe Saunders (4-6) in the first inning. After Mark Teixeira doubled down the left-field line, Robinson Cano drove him home with a single to right for his 40th RBI.
Jason Bay opened with a single to left in the Mariners’ fourth, the first baserunner Pettitte allowed. Kyle Seager followed with a first-pitch single to right, extending his hitting streak to 12 games.
Kendrys Morales then bounced a potential double-play grounder to shortstop Nix. He bobbled it and was late to tag second. He still threw to first for the out.
Michael Morse then hit a sac-fly to center, scoring Bay.
The Mariners’ failure to turn a double play in the fifth allowed the Yankees to take a 2-1 lead. Ichiro Suzuki walked and advanced to second on Chris Stewart’s one-out single to center.
Gardner then hit a one-hopper to third baseman Seager. He threw quickly to second for the force, but second baseman Nick Franklin bobbled the relay and Gardner reached.
Nix then drove Suzuki home with a single to right.
Nix also drove home the final run in the seventh on a single to center, scoring Gardner, who had doubled.
“Joe threw the ball really well today,” Wedge said. “He’s starting to lock it in and get into a groove. He has a much better feel for himself now in regard to what he wants to do.”
Kevin Youkilis entered the game tied with Boston’s David Ortiz for reaching base safely in all 20 games they have started at Safeco Field. His sixth-inning walk gave him 21 straight.
Yankee RHP Michael Pineda, who had labrum surgery 14 months ago, began his rehab assignment with Single-A Tampa Saturday. His recovery has been slow but Yankee manager Joe Girardi said that’s expected “because shoulders and elbows are precious.” … LHP Vidal Nuno was removed from his start for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre Friday because of a groin injury. Girardi said that generally means a trip to the DL. … The Mariners placed C Jesus Sucre on the DL, retroactive to June 6, with a left wrist sprain. SS Carlos Triunfel was recalled. … C Brandon Bantz, who was a backup Double-A catcher a week ago, made his first big league start. “There’s no story bigger,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “It means everything. It’s not a job; it’s a dream. … good for him.” … Morales was removed in the sixth with back stiffness. He is day to day. … The Mariners drafted the younger brother of 3B Seager, Justin Seager, in the 12th round Saturday. He is a first baseman for North Carolina-Charlotte.