A-Rod puts Yanks' win streak at seven
Third homer behind Pettitte puts Mariners away for good
NEW YORK -- Like Mark Teixeira before him, Alex Rodriguez has gone from puzzlingly cold to exceptionally hot in a flash. And with him have gone the Yankees. In such a funk as they slogged through the Interleague portion of their schedule, the Yankees won their last two games in Atlanta and have been soaring since.
They are now winning games -- and quite a lot of them -- with both efficiency and precision. The latest example came on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium, when Andy Pettitte thrived, Rodriguez hit a towering home run and the Yankees won their seventh straight game, this one a 4-2 decision over the Mariners.
"Hitters can turn very quickly," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
And so, too, can teams. Coming off a stretch in which they lost nine out of 13 games, the Yankees have rebounded to win seven straight, matching their season high by moving to 13 games over .500 for the first time since May 21. On that date, they won to cap a nine-game winning streak.
On this date, they seem primed to win some more. And Rodriguez is a significant reason why.
"There's no question I feel more energetic," Rodriguez said.
So, too, does Pettitte, though for different reasons. Attempting to rebound from his shortest outing of the season, Pettitte on Wednesday fired seven effective innings -- and if not for Girardi's newfound trust in his bullpen, the left-hander may have pitched even longer, instead exiting after just 98 pitches.
As it was, Pettitte thrived thanks to a feeling of command over all of his pitches. Striking out five and walking one, Pettitte had only regret, which came in the sixth inning, when he grooved a first-pitch fastball to Ken Griffey Jr.
Griffey promptly yanked it on a line over the wall in right field.
"That would have hurt if we hadn't been able to score," Pettitte said. "It was the sixth inning, and I was too aggressive."
Lucky for Pettitte, the Yankees were able to score. Stymied by Mariners starter Jarrod Washburn over his first two at-bats, Rodriguez hit a booming two-run homer onto the netting over Monument Park in the sixth, scoring Teixeira and snapping a 2-2 tie.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it marked the first time two players with more than 550 career home runs had gone yard in the same game since Hank Aaron and Willie Mays did so on May 8, 1971 -- Aaron hitting his 603rd homer in that game while Mays whacked his 633rd. On this day, it was Rodriguez who hit his 566th home run and Griffey who hit his 621st.
To Girardi, who recalled playing against Griffey in 1988, when he was with the Double-A Pittsfield Cubs and Griffey was with the Vermont Mariners, the display of power was hardly surprising.
And considering the outcome, Girardi could hardly mind Griffey's blast. Rodriguez's home run was his fourth in six games, yet another sign of his ever-improving health. Unlike on Tuesday, when he turned on a high fastball and crushed it into the left-field bleachers, A-Rod -- starting at designated hitter to rest his surgically repaired right hip -- hit Wednesday's home run off a changeup.
"In a sense, he provided a lot of the power," Girardi said.
But hardly all of it. An inning earlier, Melky Cabrera had hit a game-tying home run directly over the left-field foul pole. The Mariners challenged that shot, but to no avail -- after a video review, the umpiring crew stuck with its original ruling of a home run. It was the second of the game for the Yankees, who first touched Washburn for a run when Johnny Damon homered in the third.
"I really didn't think there was any way they would overturn it," Washburn said of the Cabrera home run. "From my angle, I couldn't really see it that good. It was over the pole, so the replay probably wouldn't show fair or foul that clear. I didn't have my hopes up that it would be overturned."
Instead, Washburn simply hoped for a better outcome. He did not receive it.
After Pettitte left the game, the Yankees turned to Alfredo Aceves for one batter and then to Phil Coke, who retired the left-handed-hitting Ichiro Suzuki and Russell Branyan in quick succession. Coke, who began the season slowly, now has a 0.68 ERA over his past 15 appearances -- a streak that Girardi credits to his newfound comfort in the bullpen.
"I would have to agree with that," Coke said.
Mariano Rivera saved his 502nd game, but afterward the championship belt -- the Yankees' version of a game ball -- was sitting in the locker of Pettitte. His seven innings were as crisp as any he has pitched this season and perhaps were the best he has thrown at the new Yankee Stadium.
Entering the game with a 5.77 ERA at home, Pettitte won his eighth game of the season.
"It's nice to pitch good here," Pettitte said. "I know I hadn't been pitching well here. I want to pitch good here. I want to make the team happy and the fans happy, and myself happy a little bit."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.