Teixeira continues dream season

Teixeira continues dream season

SEATTLE -- Mark Teixeira isn't quite ready to say he's having his dream season, but this much is for sure: the Yankees are enjoying every minute of having the legitimate Most Valuable Player candidate on their roster.

The first-year Bomber came through with another big hit on Friday, belting a go-ahead home run in the top of the ninth inning as the Yankees defeated the Mariners, 4-2, at Safeco Field.

After a slow start, Teixeira has been everything the Yankees hoped he would be. His team-leading 30th homer of the season helped lift the Yankees 30 games over .500, although the slugging first baseman thinks things can get even better.

"I'll tell you at the end," Teixeira said. "Right now, we've put ourselves in a good position. I've fit in really well with this team, and I'm having a great time. Hopefully I can just stay healthy and keep producing, because I'm having a lot of fun right now."

Teixeira stepped up to the plate looking to hit a home run off Mariners reliever Mark Lowe and got the pitch he was looking for, a fat changeup over the heart of the plate that gave the Yankees their first lead of the evening.

"I have one thing in mind right there," Teixeira said. "You've got a good pitcher out there and you hope he makes a mistake. If he doesn't give you that one pitch, maybe you can walk and start a big inning. He left a pitch over the middle of the plate."

Said Lowe: "He was out in front on that swing. He's just a strong guy and a great hitter. He just got the head of the bat on it and ripped it out of here. It was exactly what I was trying to do with the pitch."

Nick Swisher added a run-scoring single to provide more cushion for Mariano Rivera, who retired the side in the ninth inning to log his 34th save and secure the Yankees' 11th win in 12 games, keeping them 6 1/2 games ahead of the Red Sox in the American League East.

The appearance was the 900th of Rivera's illustrious career, making him the 22nd player in Major League history to achieve the milestone.

"You don't get 900 appearances out of the bullpen if you're not a great player," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

New York received six innings of stellar ball and a season-high 10 strikeouts from starter Andy Pettitte, though his first inning hardly foreshadowed what was to come.

After facing four batters, Pettitte was already staring at a 2-0 deficit, allowing a run-scoring double to Jose Lopez and an RBI groundout to Ken Griffey Jr.

But Pettitte buckled down and recorded his first two strikeouts of the night, discovering a sharp cutter and blowing away Russell Branyan and Jack Hannahan.

"They just jumped me early and I wasn't able to settle into the game," Pettitte said. "I didn't have a chance to throw an offspeed pitch yet to see how my stuff is.

"Really, after that, I felt good and felt decent. I was hoping I could shut them down knowing our guys were going to score."

Five of the final six outs Pettitte recorded came via strikeout, running up his pitch count and limiting Seattle to six hits and a walk before leaving tagged for a no-decision.

"He didn't have the pinpoint location of his fastball, and he had to battle," Girardi said. "Tonight was an impressive start for me because he didn't have the command that he's had the second half and he still found a way to get it done."

It was Pettitte's most punchouts since striking out 10 on Aug. 21, 2006, at Cincinnati, and hardly predictable after Pettitte departed the diamond in the first inning, battering a water cooler. He credited the cutter for making it possible and fueling a second-half surge.

"Since the All-Star break, it's just been really good," Pettitte said. "Hopefully I can just continue to hold it. I can get strikeouts on balls away when I'm throwing it in good like I am. It just sets everything up for me nice."

As solid as Pettitte was, yielding to Brian Bruney for the seventh inning, the Yankees were largely unable to solve Mariners lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith, who held them in check through seven frames for two runs on three hits.

Jorge Posada led off the second inning with a drive that hit above the yellow line on the right-center-field fence, with the original ruling of double upheld after review.

Posada scored on a Jerry Hairston Jr. fielder's choice, and Melky Cabrera scored the tying run in the fifth on Derek Jeter's ground ball through the left side.

"It seemed like every hit that we got was involved in scoring a run," Girardi said.

Phil Hughes picked up the victory with a scoreless eighth inning, but had to work out of trouble after issuing a pair of two-out walks to Griffey Jr. and Branyan. Hughes said he pulled a fastball away from Griffey Jr. on the walk but was most excited about having had a chance to face him.

"I used to play his Super Nintendo video game all the time," Hughes said. "That's a guy I grew up watching. It's cool to be able to face guys like that, because those are the guys you can tell your kids about."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.