Mariners lose to Yankees in the eighth

NEW YORK — Mariano Rivera walked down off the mound, took a few more steps toward the plate and began the evening with a nice, soft toss.

He ended it in much more familiar fashion, with a hard fastball for strike three.

Rivera started what he finished and the New York Yankees, helped by Melky Cabrera’s go-ahead double in the eighth inning, beat the Seattle Mariners 8-5 Tuesday night for their sixth straight win.

In a sight rarely seen in baseball, an active player threw out the ceremonial first ball. Rivera was honored for earning his 500th career save Sunday, and his teammates applauded while the Mariners came to the top step of the dugout to pay their respects.

“As soon as I got here they told me,” Rivera said. “I think everybody had fun with that.”

Said Yankees manager Joe Girardi: “I told him he should throw it out left-handed.”

Once Cabrera’s hit put the Yankees ahead, Rivera went to work. He pitched a perfect ninth, striking out Franklin Gutierrez for his 19th save in 20 chances.

“I told the guys, `I might throw the first and the last one, too,”’ Rivera said moments after the final out.

Alex Rodriguez hit his 565th career homer and Cabrera drove in three runs. The Yankees won their ninth in a row at home over Seattle, a streak dating to 2007.

Major league batting leader Ichiro Suzuki got two hits and stole three bases for the Mariners.

Cabrera, with a knack for key hits late in games, lined an RBI double off Sean White (2-1). Hideki Matsui began the eighth with a double, Nick Swisher bunted for a single and Cabrera delivered again.

“He’s thrived in that situation. He’s had a lot of wins for us,” Girardi said.

The Yankees got three hits on three straight pitches from White.

“It’s the first time I’ve really seen Whitey struggle out there. Very rarely do you see that out of him,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. “They can put up a lot of runs on the board in a hurry.”

Derek Jeter capped the burst with a two-run single. He was among the Yankees who applauded when Rivera threw the first ball, a ceremony usually reserved for former greats.

“Might be a first, right?” Jeter said.

Brian Bruney (3-0) got the win despite giving up two runs in the eighth that made it 5-all. Kenji Johjima hit an RBI single and Russell Branyan had a bases-loaded sacrifice fly.

Rodriguez launched his 12th homer of the season in the seventh for a 5-3 lead. He immediately tossed aside his bat after the tiebreaking two-run shot.

The Mariners are the AL’s worst-fielding team and hours after two-time Gold Glove third baseman Adrian Beltre had shoulder surgery, replacement Chris Woodward made two errors on one play to help New York take a 2-0 lead in the second.

With runners on first and second, Woodward bobbled a slow grounder by Matsui for the first mistake. He then skipped a throw past first that let one run score, and another came home on Cabrera’s sacrifice fly.

Ronny Cedeno, batting only .133, homered in the Seattle third. As is their way under bullpen coach John Wetteland, the Mariners relievers all met to high-five the occasion.

Seattle tied it at 3 in the fifth. Suzuki led off with a single and stole his way around to third, setting up RBI singles by Branyan and Gutierrez.

In a matchup of setup men who were converted to starters, neither pitcher went deep. Joba Chamberlain went 5 1-3 innings for the Yankees while winless Brandon Morrow lasted just 4 2-3 innings.

NOTES: Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo was on the field, clutching a football and chatting with Jeter and other Yankees before rain cut short batting practice. Romo brought a guest — 10-year-old leukemia patient Ben Grant of Albany, N.Y. Asked his favorite teams, the boy said the Yankees, Cowboys and New York Giants. “No, not the Giants!” Romo said in mock distress. … The Yankees acquired utilityman Eric Hinske and cash from Pittsburgh for two minor leaguers. Bad weather delayed Hinske’s flight to New York. … There was a 61-minute rain delay at the start.

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