Johnny Damon hit a go-ahead, two-run triple in the eighth inning and Rivera pitched the final two innings for his 14th save in 16 chances, helping New York overcome Howard’s two homers and seven RBIs in the Yankees’ 9-7 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday night.
With runners on first and second in the ninth, Rivera retired Howard on a bouncer to second base to end the game.
“That’s what it’s all about. As a closer, you have to face those guys, you have to face the best hitters,” said Rivera, who recorded his first six-out save of the season. “I want to face the best.”
Howard hit his 24th and 25th homers to tie the injured Albert Pujols for the major league lead and had a tiebreaking two-run triple in the seventh.
But Arthur Rhodes quickly gave up the lead against a team that has owned him throughout his career. Rhodes (0-2) didn’t retire a batter in the eighth, allowing four runs. He’s 4-8 with a 7.22 ERA in 49 games against the Yankees.
“The pitching failed us,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
Williams had an infield single to start the eighth and Miguel Cairo walked. Pinch-hitter Melky Cabrera snapped an 0-for-15 slump with an RBI single to cut it to 7-6. Damon then ripped a two-run triple to center field to give the Yankees their first lead, 8-7. Ryan Franklin came in and gave up an RBI single to Derek Jeter.
T.J. Beam (1-0) retired the only batter he faced in the seventh inning for his first win in the majors. Desperate for a victory, Yankees manager Joe Torre then turned to Rivera in the eighth.
“It’s not something I like to do, but I felt the game was important and we have an off day Thursday,” Torre said. “Mo was up to the challenge. When you think about all the things he’s done in his career and the hitters he’s faced, he doesn’t back down from anybody.”
Howard wasn’t in the starting lineup against lefty Randy Johnson on Monday night. He quickly showed the Yankees his tremendous power in the first inning.
Mussina retired the first two batters before Bobby Abreu singled and Pat Burrell walked. Howard hit Mussina’s next pitch into the third deck in right field. The mammoth shot traveled an estimated 461 feet and was the first to reach that level in the three-year history of Citizens Bank Park—Barry Bonds’ 713th career homer on May 7 hit the facade of the upper deck in right.
Before Howard came to the plate, Mussina yelled at plate umpire Gary Cederstrom because he thought his 3-1 pitch to Burrell was a strike. Cederstrom took off his mask and said something back to Mussina.
If Mussina was rattled, Howard certainly took advantage. He paused to admire his blast before jogging around the bases while teammates in the dugout were awed by the drive. Brett Myers stood up and screamed, “Oh My God!” and Ryan Madson nearly fell over.
“They were pretty shocked,” Howard said. “I just knew it took off. I didn’t know where it was or where it was going to land.”
Howard’s next homer probably was more impressive.
After the Yankees tied it at 3 with two runs in the fourth, Howard hit an opposite-field, two-run shot in the bottom half of the inning. Burrell led off with a single, before Howard hit a low-and-away 1-2 pitch into the left-center field seats.
“He’s awesome,” Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez said of Howard. “I love watching him. He’s pretty impressive. He’s going to have a great future.”
Mussina allowed five runs and seven hits in five innings. He’s 0-2 with a no-decision in his last three starts after going 8-1.
Phillies starter Cory Lidle gave up four runs and eight hits in 5 1-3 innings. It was the 14th time in 15 starts he failed to pitch seven innings.
The Yankees got their first run on an RBI single by Williams in the second inning. Giambi homered leading off the fourth and Kevin Reese blooped an RBI single with two outs to tie it at 3.
Posada’s solo homer in the sixth cut it to 5-4 and Rodriguez had an RBI single in the seventh to tie it at 5.
Howard’s seven RBIs are a career high. He leads the majors with 66. Pitcher Robert Person was the last Phillie to drive in seven runs in one game. He did it against Montreal on June 2, 2002. Howard has four multihomer games— all this season. … Posada has now homered in 25 different major league stadiums. That’s the most of any player in Yankees history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. … Williams has five five-hit games in his career. His previous one was Aug. 15, 2002, at Anaheim. … Phillies LHP Randy Wolf, who had elbow surgery last July 1, will make his third rehab start at Double-A Reading on Wednesday night. His first two were at Single-A Clearwater. … Phillies RHP Jon Lieber, sidelined with a groin injury, will start Thursday night for Philadelphia’s Gulf Coast team in Clearwater. … Reese got his first career RBI. … Rivera struck out in his first career at-bat in the regular season in the ninth.