Yankees 9, Mariners 7
NEW YORK (AP)—When it counted, two quiet Yankees silenced all the pregame hype about the Boone brothers and a swap of relievers.
Nick Johnson hit a grand slam an inning after David Dellucci made a diving catch with the bases loaded as New York rallied to beat the Seattle Mariners 9-7 Friday night in a matchup of the teams with the best records in the American League.
“I got a smile out of him,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said of Johnson, who reluctantly took his first curtain call.
Dellucci played down his first big moment for the Yankees since coming to New York in the Raul Mondesi trade July 29.
“Everybody came up and gave me high-fives and knuckles and said great catch, but I didn’t pay much attention,” Dellucci said.
Hideki Matsui homered for the East-leading Yankees, who won their fifth of seven matchups with the West-leading Mariners this season. New York opened a four-game lead over the Red Sox, who were swept in a doubleheader by Baltimore.
Jeff Nelson came on to pitch the eighth inning and face the Mariners for the first time since being traded back to New York for Armando Benitez on Wednesday. Nelson struck out Ichiro Suzuki, Willie Bloomquist and Bret Boone, punctuating his final out by pumping his fist and leaping off the mound.
“Nelson, he was sky-high,” Torre said. “He was a sharp as he could be.”
The right-hander was excited, but not for the reasons he expected.
“It was different than I thought,” he said. “It was more of `I got the Yankees pinstripes on’ and the fans. I said ‘It’s time to get a win.”
Benitez pitched the bottom half to a loud chorus of boos from the 52,793 fans.
As he’s been prone to do against New York in the past, most notably in Game 1 of the Subway Series in 2000, Benitez struggled again at Yankee Stadium. He allowed a run-scoring single to Johnson, who set career highs with four hits and five RBIs, that made it 9-7.
“I thought he pitched well,” Seattle manager Bob Melvin said. “It was just one of those things that found the hole.”
New York’s Aaron Boone, traded to the Yankees before the trade deadline, and Seattle’s Bret Boone each had one hit in the latest episode of their sibling rivalry. Aaron Boone scored a run in the sixth when Dellucci was hit by a pitch from Franklin with the bases loaded.
Johnson’s homer in the sixth capped an inning in which the Yankees scored five unearned runs off Ryan Franklin (8-10) and came after Dellucci made his catch to end the Mariners’ fifth.
“I’m not trying to do too much,” Johnson said, “just trying to see the ball and swing.
Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth for his second straight save and 23rd overall, after he’d blown his previous two save attempts.
Alfonso Soriano, making his first start after sitting out two games with a sore right thumb, flied out to center, Johnson then hit his first career slam to right field, ending Franklin’s night.
The Mariners batted around in the fifth against Jeff Weaver, scoring four runs—three with two outs—on five singles and a double by McLemore.
Weaver gave up three straight hits with two outs then stood with his glove on his hip shaking his head as Torre went to the mound to bring in Sterling Hitchcock.
Weaver, who held the Mariners to three hits in the first four innings, seemed stunned that he was finished and made an extremely slow walk to the dugout, serenaded by a Bronx Cheer that began earlier in the inning.
“Weaver was good the first four innings,” Torre said. “He had terrible counts in the next. He started off 3-0 against the leadoff hitter and it just snowballed from there.”
Davis then hit a shallow fly off Hitchcock (1-2) down the right-field line. Dellucci ran down and made a shoestring catch while sliding chest-first on the slick grass and coming to a stop on the warning track.
“I just went all out,” Dellucci said. “As I got closer I said let’s go for it.”
Melvin, Dellucci’s former coach in Arizona, didn’t think it was out of the ordinary.
“I’ve seen him do that a ton of times. That’s three runs right there if he doesn’t get it. That was a heck of a play and obviously one of the key points of the game,” he said.
The Yankees went up 3-1 in the second on Matsui’s leadoff homer and Soriano’s two-run single.
The Yankees honored Roger Clemens with a pregame ceremony celebrating his 300th win. The team gave him a red Hummer—the “Rocketmobile.” Clemens and each of his four sons got commemorative rings, and his wife Debbie was given a 300-win pendant. … NASCAR champion driver Richard Petty threw out the ceremonial first pitch. … Seattle optioned right-hander Aaron Looper, cousin of Florida closer Braden Looper, to Triple-A Tacoma. … Mariners infielder Rey Sanchez strained his right quadriceps muscle and left for a pinch-hitter in thefifth. He is day-to-day.