For a milestone win by Andy Pettitte, there was no more fitting end than for Mariano Rivera to throw the final pitch.
Pettitte won the 250th game of his career Saturday, allowing one run over 7.1 innings to beat the Mariners, 3-1, at Safeco Field.
Rivera closed out the win for his 22nd save of the season, saving a Pettitte win for the 71st time – a record for any starter/closer combination.
Jayson Nix provided the offensive punch with a pair of RBI singles, while Robinson Cano got things started with a run-scoring hit in the first.
Dave Robertson made things interesting in the eighth after taking over for Pettitte, putting the tying run on base, but the reliever worked out of the jam and got the ball to Rivera, who made what might have been his final career appearance in Seattle.
Pettitte wasn’t great in his return from the disabled list on Monday, allowing four runs in 4.2 innings in a no-decision against the Indians, though Joe Girardi saw positive signs in the outing.
“I thought his stuff was really good,” Girardi said before Saturday’s game when asked what he wanted to see from Pettitte. “For him, maybe just a little bit more distance. Stretch him out a little bit further.”
Pettitte did just that, pitching into the eighth inning for only the third time in 10 starts this season. He allowed three hits without issuing a walk, striking out six to improve to 5-3.
Pettitte ranks 47th on the all-time wins list with 250, leaving him one behind Hall of Famer Bob Gibson. Pettitte has won 213 of those games with the Yankees, third-most in franchise history behind Whitey Ford (236) and Red Ruffing (231).
Having won two of the first three games of the series, the Yankees assured themselves of no worse than a split. David Phelps will try to pitch them to a series win on Sunday, but the Mariners counter with Felix Hernandez against the Bombers’ ailing offense.
The Yankees struck in the opening inning, taking a lead as Mark Teixeira doubled with two out, scoring on Cano’s RBI single. Cano entered the game mired in a 2-for-21 slump.
Pettitte was perfect through the first three innings, sitting down the first nine Mariners he faced. Jason Bay gave Seattle its first baserunner in the fourth with a leadoff single, then Kyle Seager followed with another hit, giving the Mariners their first scoring opportunity.