SEATTLE – Mariano Rivera's pursuit of history is headed north of the border.
Luis Rodriguez belted a walk-off home run against Cory Wade to lead off the 12th inning, giving the Mariners a 2-1 win over the Yankees, salvaging the final game of the series to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Bombers.
"We've had three tough ones on this road trip, lost three games by one run," Joe Girardi said. "It's a tough one because you figure your offense is usually going to score more than one run."
Rivera's quest for the saves record now moves to Toronto, where he'll tie Trevor Hoffman for the all-time mark with his next save, No. 601, then call the record his own with the one after that.
"I don't think like that," Rivera said of his chase. "We need to play and play hard, be ready to win. We're in a pennant race, so we need to finish this and hopefully be ready for the playoffs."
The Yankees had a scare when Robinson Cano was drilled on his right foot by a pitch in the 12th inning, and while he remained in the game, he was sent for X-rays afterward. The tests came back negative, leaving Cano optimistic that he'll be back in the lineup on Friday.
"I knew it was a lot of pain, but I didn't think it was broken," Cano said. "We can do ice treatment (Thursday) and be ready to go Friday."
Despite the loss, the Yankees' magic number to clinch the American League East dropped to 11, as the Red Sox lost for the eighth time in their last 10 games to remain four games back.
"You want to win this one, especially because the Red Sox lost today," Cano said.
The Rays also dropped their second straight Wednesday, leaving them eight games behind the Yankees.
"We know what's happening to the teams behind us," Girardi said. "It's hard not to look; every scoreboard has every score up, so you're not going to miss any score. We're going to notice."
With three straight wins entering Wednesday night, the Yankees had started to find the groove that had vaulted them from two games back in the AL East on Aug. 28 to a four-game lead, erasing the black cloud that hovered over them during last week's four-game losing streak.
But lefty Jason Vargas held the Yankees to one run over 6-2/3 innings, his lone mistake a seventh-inning solo home run by Nick Swisher, while Seattle's bullpen blanked the Bombers over 5-1/3 frames.
"I thought our guys put some pretty good at-bats on him," Girardi said. "He was really locating and we weren't quite centering balls up. He threw a good game."
Ivan Nova was looking to win his 12th straight decision, having grinded his way through 5-1/3 innings of three-run ball in his last outing Thursday in Baltimore.
Nova pitched well against the free-swinging Mariners, giving up one run on five hits and four walks in 7-1/3 innings, but he took a no-decision after a rare off-night by the offense.
"The hitters didn't hit today; we're not perfect," Nova said. "It was a good game on both sides."
Two timely double plays helped Nova post three scoreless innings to open the game, but Seattle had runners at the corners with two out in the fourth when Nova unleashed a high, inside curveball that glanced off the outstretched arm of Russell Martin, allowing Mike Carp to score the game's first run.
"It was a curveball I couldn't get down," Nova said. "I didn't give Russell Martin a chance to catch it. That happens."
"It's a curveball that backed up and that's the one thing you can't really predict as a catcher," Girardi said. "You can anticipate down, down, block the ball, block the ball, but that one backed up."
Nova bounced back with a pair of scoreless innings, holding the Mariners in check while he waited for the Yankees' offense to break through.
For a while, it looked as though that wouldn't happen. Vargas allowed only one hit through the first five innings, retiring the side in order four times during that span.
The Bombers' lone opportunity came in the third, as Andruw Jones walked and Eduardo Nunez doubled into the left-field corner. Third-base coach Rob Thomson waved Jones home all the way from first, but Carp made a perfect throw to shortstop Luis Rodriguez, whose relay throw got to catcher Miguel Olivo in time to nail Jones at the plate.
Vargas came out for the seventh inning having retired 10 of his last 11 batters. He recorded two quick outs to start the inning, but Swisher drilled a fastball into the left-field seats, tying the game with his 23rd home run of the season.
"I thought we were patient on Vargas, I thought the guys put good at-bats," Girardi said. "I thought he just located well. They made him work, we just didn't get hits."
The Yankees stranded the go-ahead run at third in the top of the eighth, as Jamey Wright caught Derek Jeter looking at a called third strike.
Seattle threatened to take the lead in their half of the eighth, as Nova allowed a leadoff double by Rodriguez, the light-hitting infielder who would later be the hero. Rodriguez moved to third on a sac bunt by Trayvon Robinson, then Nova intentionally walked Ichiro before turning the ball over to Dave Robertson despite throwing only 87 pitches.
Houdini worked his magic again, as Robertson got Seager to fly out to shallow left, then froze Dustin Ackley with a fastball to end the inning.
"I've always said he has the ability to strike people out," Girardi said. "You can bring him in tough situations and he did it again tonight."
With Rivera waiting in the bullpen for a lead to protect, the bullpen extended the game into the 12th, but Wade gave up the game-winner, pushing Rivera's pursuit of the record to the weekend.
"It's rough; everybody went out and contributed, did what they needed to do," Wade said. "It came down to me, I made a mistake and he hit out of the ballpark. He did just what he was supposed to do with that pitch."
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