M's Ichiro hits walk-off homer to beat Yankees
This time, there was no where for Ichiro Suzuki to run and hide.
A day after scurrying away from his Seattle teammates in the outfield following a game-winning hit, Suzuki had no choice but to face the mob waiting at home plate.
The pounding was worth it.
Facing dominating New York closer Mariano Rivera, the Mariners All-Star outfielder lined a two-out, two-run homer into the right field seats to give the Mariners a stunning 3-2 win over the Yankees on Friday night.
After pinch-hitter Mike Sweeney kept the ninth alive with a two-out double off Rivera, Suzuki came through with the third game-winning homer this season for the Mariners. He jumped on the first pitch from Rivera (3-3) and set off the shocking celebration.
"Today there was no where to escape. I got beat up a little bit," Suzuki said through his interpreter.
The finish was so sudden since Rivera had been so dominant over the last few months. It was only the second time since June that Rivera has allowed a run, and just his second blown save of the year, having converted 36 straight. His previous blown save was April 24 when Boston's Jason Bay tagged him for a two-run homer.
The ninth started in typical Rivera fashion. He overpowered Jack Hannahan and Mike Carp for his 999th and 1,000th career strikeouts. Then came Sweeney, who got a cutter that was left over the plate and sliced it into right-center field over the head of Nick Swisher.
Before anyone had time to notice a pinch-runner in Sweeney's place, Suzuki was trotting around the bases after his 10th homer of the season.
"The ball didn't go where it was supposed to," Rivera said. "It is different with Ichiro. He can do a lot of things. Definitely if you make a mistake, he is going to hurt you."
Yankees' manager Joe Girardi said even with first base open, the idea of walking Suzuki was pushed aside because of Suzuki's excellent speed.
"It just shows he's human. ... We thought we'd go after him and (Mariano) done a pretty good job of that," Girardi said.
Suzuki's homer made a surprise winner out of Seattle ace Felix Hernandez, who padded his resume in the AL Cy Young award race with a victory over the best team in the American League. Hernandez (16-5) escaped the few jams he faced, used his pitches efficiently, and tossed his second complete-game of the season.
He threw just 104 pitches and lowered his September ERA to a minuscule 0.58. But even Hernandez knew something unusual needed to happen in the ninth if he was to get the victory.
"I was just thinking 'base hit, base hit,"' Hernandez said. "Then came the homer and I was so excited. It was a great game."
Overshadowed by Rivera's blown save was an important, and strong start by New York's A.J. Burnett.
The Yankees needed to see Burnett regain some of the command he had earlier in the season when he built a 10-4 record over his first 20 starts, and not the wildly inconsistent performances of the last six weeks where Burnett was 1-5 with an ERA of 6.14.
Burnett showed that perhaps he will be a factor for the Yankees in the postseason. He matched Hernandez, giving up just seven hits and struck out six, raising his season total to 173. He also walked three and hit a batter.
"Burnett was great tonight and we want to get him on a roll," Girardi said. "The end result was not good."
New York only got to Hernandez twice, capitalizing on the few times the Mariners' young ace missing high in the strike zone.
Johnny Damon had two doubles and a single in his first three at-bats, and scored the go ahead run in the sixth. After lining a double past the diving attempt of Hannahan, Damon advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on Teixeira's fly ball to deep left field.
Damon's double in the first also moved Derek Jeter to third, and Jeter later scored on Alex Rodriguez's line drive to center, beating Gutierrez's throw to the plate.
NOTES: Wakamatsu said before the game that the Mariners may consider throwing Hernandez on four days rest in the season finale on Oct. 4 vs. Texas. ... Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte threw a full bullpen session and expects to start Monday night against the AL West leading Angels. Pettitte was scratched from his last start with fatigue in his pitching shoulder.