OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Even though he has a knack for game-winning hits, Marco Scutaro thought he had no chance.
Not against Mariano Rivera. Not with an .050 batting average this year.
Then, with one stunning swing against one of baseball’s best closers, Scutaro gave the Oakland Athletics their first series victory of the season. He hit a three-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning, rallying the A’s to a 5-4 win over the New York Yankees on Sunday.
“I don’t know about this one,” Scutaro said. “I can’t believe it still, against Mariano. I was just praying the ball didn’t go foul. You don’t get that against him, you don’t get many pitches to hit. The way I’m feeling at the plate right now, the last thing I thought I was going to do is hit a home run.”
The diminutive backup infielder drove an 0-2 pitch from Rivera (1-1) off the screen just inside the left-field foul pole for the eighth game-ending hit of his career and second game-winning homer. The other came on Aug. 25, 2004, against Baltimore.
“I wanted to go inside,” Rivera said. “It was in and over the plate.”
It was the fourth game-ending homer against Rivera, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Cleveland’s Bill Selby hit a grand slam on July 14, 2002, Boston’s Bill Mueller had a two-run shot on July 24, 2004, and Toronto’s Vernon Wells hit a solo drive on July 20, 2006.
“I was shocked,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
Scutaro’s shot spoiled a strong start by Andy Pettitte, who gave the Yankees the quality outing they desperately needed. Before the game, New York put starting pitchers Mike Mussina (strained left hamstring) and Carl Pavano (tightness in right forearm) on the disabled list.
Rivera, who blew his first save chance of the season, got two quick outs in the ninth before Todd Walker singled for Oakland’s first hit since the third inning. Jason Kendall then walked, bringing up Scutaro.
“Certain types of players are born for the dramatic, and Marco Scutaro is one,” teammate Nick Swisher said.
The super sub, who had been slated to play shortstop, was in the lineup at second base as a last-minute fill-in for ailing Mark Ellis.
Oakland took two of three from the Yankees after going winless in its first three series. The first two games went to extra innings, taxing both bullpens.
Pettitte overcame a rough start to pitch seven solid innings. He outlasted Oakland right-hander Rich Harden, who left with tightness in his pitching shoulder after allowing Alex Rodriguez’s leadoff double in New York’s three-run seventh.
Rodriguez added a sacrifice fly in the eighth to make it 4-2. Swisher made a difficult running catch of A-Rod’s drive, slamming into the center-field fence.
Pettitte allowed five hits and two runs—one earned. He gave up a first-inning run for the first time in 16 starts, which had been the longest current streak in the majors.
After considering it all week, Harden decided before the game to honor Jackie Robinson and wear No. 42 on the 60th anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier. Harden then dazzled through six innings with seven strikeouts despite feeling tightness in his shoulder for much of the outing.
Cano, named after Robinson, wore No. 42 along with manager Joe Torre and shortstop Derek Jeter. Rivera is the only active player in the major leagues who wears No. 42—it was grandfathered in in 1997 when baseball retired the number.
Jay Marshall (1-0) pitched 1 1-3 scoreless innings for his first major league win.
Seeing Harden hurt yet again is a real scare for the defending AL West champions. He was limited to nine starts last season, when he spent two stints on the disabled list. He also was on the DL twice in 2005.
The A’s will re-evaluate their No. 1 starter during Monday’s off day, though he doesn’t think the injury will keep him out.
“It’s not too serious,” he said. “I’m not concerned.”
Mike Piazza hit an RBI single and Bobby Kielty added a sacrifice fly for Oakland, which split four games with Seattle to start the year, then lost three-game sets to the Los Angeles Angels and Chicago White Sox.
The last time the A’s were winless in their first four series of the year was 2001.
Jeter made his sixth error. … New York 1B Doug Mientkiewicz singled in the sixth to snap an 0-for-24 skid that matched the longest hitless stretch of his career. Mientkiewicz tried to score on a pitch that sailed to the backstop, but was tagged out at the plate by Harden after Kendall made a quick recovery. … Oakland LHP Joe Kennedy made his first relief appearance since getting temporarily bumped from the rotation because of off days.