DENVER -- With so many New York front-line players on the disabled list, run production has become a concern for the Yankees. Their pitching has not just sustained them, it has enabled them to thrive.
That scenario unfolded again Thursday afternoon when the Yankees beat the Rockies 3-1 in a game in which a rain delay of 1 hour, 59 minutes led to the departure of starters CC Sabathia and Jeff Francis after the fourth inning. There was also an eight-minute delay at the start of the game.
Victory in the rubber game of this low-scoring series -- the Yankees lost 2-0 on Tuesday and won 3-2 on Wednesday -- resulted from the efforts of Sabathia and five relievers along with just enough offense.
"We just did a lot of little things right," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "When we had opportunities to score, we did. There weren't a lot of runs scored in Colorado. I can't imagine people would have predicted that here. Three days here and we won two close games."
The Yankees' pitchers held the Rockies to four singles.
New York jumped on top early. Vernon Wells singled home a run in the first inning. Chris Stewart hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth, and Robinson Cano, whose infield single in the third was the 1,500th hit of his career, homered in the fifth off Adam Ottavino, the only hit he gave up in three innings. It was Cano's ninth homer of the season and the first earned run Ottavino allowed in eight games dating from April 9.
Mariano Rivera capped the bullpen's five scoreless innings by retiring the side in the ninth for his 13th save in as many chances. That is his second longest streak of consecutive saves to begin a season. He converted his first 28 save opportunities in 2008.
While Rivera locked up the ninth as expected, Girardi had to get mileage from young relievers Adam Warren, who was the winning pitcher, and Preston Claiborne and even had to bring in David Robertson, his normal eighth-inning man, in the seventh.
Robertson came on after Claiborne gave up consecutive two-out singles and had to face pinch hitter Todd Helton with the Yankees ahead 3-1. Robertson struck him out, getting Helton to chase a curveball.
"I knew I had to make some quality pitches," Robertson said. "Helton's a good hitter. I knew if I made a mistake he was likely to put it in the seats. He hit a home run yesterday. So I just tried to stay away from him, not give him anything he could put a good swing on."
Robertson also ended the eighth with a big strikeout, getting Carlos Gonzalez with a runner on second base.
Sabathia breezed through four innings on 51 pitches and allowed one hit, a single by Troy Tulowitzki in the first that paved the way for Gonzalez's sacrifice fly. After that out, Sabathia retired the final 10 batters he faced.
Asked if he was disappointed at not being able to continue pitching, Sabathia said, "I'm just disappointed I didn't get any more at-bats."
He struck out to end the second and the fourth innings and said, "I'm sure my son is going to be all over me."
Francis gave up two runs in four innings, which he completed with 64 pitches, including 39 strikes. The Yankees scored a run in the first on a broken-bat two-out single by Wells that brought home Jayson Nix, who had walked.
Chris Nelson led off the fourth with a double, took third on Lyle Overbay's grounder to second and scored on Stewart's sacrifice fly.
"I executed some pitches," Francis said. "It's four innings, not really a long time to be able to judge. They did a good job manufacturing the run off the leadoff double in the fourth inning. Broken bat single scores a run in the first. It's a good team. We expected more out of ourselves. We just have to make sure we do better."
NOTES: Tulowitzki was back in the Rockies' lineup for the first time since Sunday. He had been bothered by inflammation in left adductor muscle, near the groin. Manager Walt Weiss said, "I had a pretty good feeling that he'd be ready to go today. He was trying to talk his way into the lineup last night." ... Gonzalez and Tulowitzki typically hit third and fourth in the Rockies' lineup, but Weiss reversed the order for the first time this season. Neither had much history against Sabathia. Gonzalez was hitless in two at-bats against him, but Tulowitzki was 2-for-3. ... The Yankees and Texas Rangers are the only teams in the big leagues not to lose more than two consecutive games this season. ... Girardi thinks reliever Joba Chamberlain (right oblique strain) might be activated on Tuesday in Seattle when he is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list. "He says he feels better, and he's playing catch," Girardi said. "But until he gets off a mound and turns it up a little bit, you're really not going to know."... Yankees shortstop Eduardo Nunez, who came out of Sunday's game with a left rib cage strain and hasn't played since, said he hopes to take swings Friday in Kansas City and play if he comes through that fine. He fielded ground balls in the indoor batting cage and said he felt fine.