Yankees rally to beat Seattle

September 7, 2008 5:15:10 AM PDT
The New York Yankees looked determined. Make that, desperate.

Bobby Abreu homered and drove in three runs, Jason Giambi also connected and the Yankees rallied for five runs in the seventh inning to beat the Seattle Mariners 7-4 on Saturday night.

One night after Brandon Morrow held them hitless for 7 2-3 innings in his first major league start, the Yankees overcame four RBIs by Seattle's Raul Ibanez and a 3-2 deficit in the sixth to move within 7½ games of Boston in the AL wild-card standings.

"We have to pick them up," manager Joe Girardi said of games in the standings. "Any day we can pick them up is great."

With Derek Jeter leaping as high as he said he could to save a run in the third, Alex Rodriguez running and twisting for a double play that preserved a lead in the fourth and Mariano Rivera entering in the eighth for an extended save, the Yankees' pride equated to Yankees desperation.

"It's like that everyday. We've got to win," Jeter said of this September unlike any other in the last 14 years for New York.

New York, which has reached the postseason in 13 consecutive years, has 20 games remaining. Sixteen of those are against teams that entered Saturday at or above .500.

Yet Jeter still believes.

"We have 20 games left. Last time I checked we weren't 21 games out," he said.

His Yankees showed the motivation of a team in danger of elimination soon. Especially after Ibanez's three-run homer off Sidney Ponson in the sixth gave Seattle a 3-2 lead.

In the seventh, Johnny Damon reached on a fielder's choice grounder. Damon stole second and third while reliever Sean Green (4-5) walked Derek Jeter on a full count.

Rookie Justin Thomas entered to face Abreu, whose home run in the first gave New York an early lead. Abreu lined a triple into the right-field corner that scored Damon and Jeter. Third base coach Bobby Meacham was jumping up and down, clapping and yelling as if it was October while New York took a 4-3 lead.

"As quick as we got to three with Raul's home run, they got them right back," Seattle manager Jim Riggleman said.

Roy Corcoran entered and hit Rodriguez with his first pitch.

Giambi drove Corcoran's next pitch for a ground-rule double that made it 5-3. Xavier Nady's RBI groundout scored Rodriguez, and Hideki Matsui singled home Giambi to cap the five-run surge.

"I had no fear we wouldn't come back," Girardi said, as if he sensed the players' survival instinct.

Ponson (8-5) won for the second time since July 21, after three bad starts had him changing pitching mechanics and closing his front shoulder more. It worked - with his sinker sharper, he allowed Ibanez's homer and four singles in six innings.

Ibanez bent down to golf a 1-1 pitch for his 23rd homer, giving him 100 RBIs for the third consecutive year and fourth time in 13 major league seasons.

He added an RBI single in the eighth off Joba Chamberlain, who allowed three hits in his second appearance since missing 24 games while on the disabled list with rotator cuff tendinitis.

Chamberlain got two outs.

Mariano Rivera, making his first appearance since Aug. 29, entered with two on and two outs in the eighth and got Jose Lopez to ground out. Rivera pitched a perfect ninth for his 33rd save in 34 chances. It was his eighth save in eight tries when entering before the ninth inning.

Ponson escaped the third with a 1-0 lead after Yuniesky Betancourt was at third with one out. Jeter leaped with his legs splayed to catch a liner by Luis Valbuena.

Asked if he could jump any higher, Jeter smiled and said, "Um, I'd like to think so. Probably not."

Then with two on and one out in the fourth, Rodriguez ran to stop a hard grounder by Jose Lopez. While stepping on third base he deftly threw to first across his body for the double play.

"That was the best defense we've played all year," Girardi said.

Even though Ponson has been a Yankee for just over two months, he, too, felt the urgency.

"We have three more weeks to go," he said. "Hopefully at the end of September we will have another month to play. That's what everyone in this clubhouse is pushing for."

Ryan Rowland-Smith allowed seven hits and three runs in 6 1-3 innings for Seattle, the AL's worst team.

Abreu's home run off the Australian was his first in 126 at-bats. That was Abreu's longest power outage since last April and May.

In the sixth, Giambi hit his 206th home run with the Yankees, surpassing Dave Winfield for 10th in team history. Jorge Posada is ninth with 218.

Notes: Giambi was 2-for-14 on the road trip before his big night. ... Seattle announced rookie C Jeff Clement will have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Tuesday. The team thinks tears in his meniscus were the result of wear and not a specific trauma.

Rehabilitation is expected to take a month.