In 9th: Yanks allow 4, win on Ball 4

Things were starting to look better for the Yankees, as Mike Mussina had held the Red Sox to just one run over eight innings, leaving New York just three outs away from a series win over first-place Boston. Then came the ninth inning. Leading 5-1, Mussina allowed the first two runners to reach base, prompting the Yankees to call on Mariano Rivera. Boston teed off on the Yankees’ All-Star closer, sending seven men to the plate against the right-hander, tying the game with four ninth-inning runs. “I think I threw it well, but they hit it,” Rivera said. “What can I say? That’s baseball.” After blowing the lead, the Yankees wasted no time against Brandon Lyon in the bottom of the inning. Hideki Matsui doubled to left with one out, advancing to third on a throwing error by left fielder Manny Ramirez. Boston intentionally walked both Alfonso Soriano and Jason Giambi, loading the bases with one out for Jorge Posada. The All-Star catcher walked, forcing in Matsui to give the Yankees a thrilling 6-5 win over their rivals. “Matsui got a huge hit for us, which was very important,” said manager Joe Torre. “I saw them not give up and attack us. They did a hell of a job. I’m just glad we got the hit in the bottom of the ninth and were able to do something with it.” The win lifted the Yankees, who had lost five straight before winning the final two games of the series, within a half-game of the Red Sox in the American League East. The two teams do not play each other again until July 4, when they open a four-game set at Yankee Stadium. “It was big for us to win the series, given the struggles we had going into it,” said Todd Zeile. “It was also good to see that we can get up to play against that team. We rose to the occasion, which is nice.” The Yankees gave Mussina an early lead for the second consecutive game, scoring four runs against Derek Lowe in the first two innings, highlighted by Hideki Matsui’s two-run double. Four runs looked as if it would be more than enough for Mussina, who resembled the pitcher who won his first seven decisions, not one who had lost his last three. Mussina allowed just two baserunners through the first six innings, holding Boston to a single and a walk. Todd Walker led off the seventh with a single to center, ending Mussina’s stretch of 11 in a row. With two outs and Kevin Millar at the plate, Walker was picked off by Posada to end the inning. “I’m pleased with the way I threw and I’m pleased with the result,” Mussina said. “I think things could have been a little better, I didn’t feel that commanding out there, but for the most part, I made a good pitch when I had to. It’s big for us to win this game, to take two out of three from the first-place team.” Soriano crushed a solo homer to left, his 16th, against Mike Timlin in the seventh, putting the Yankees ahead 5-0. But Mussina’s shutout bid ended with one out in the eighth, as Shea Hillenbrand belted his third home run of the year. Mussina then put the first two hitters on in the ninth, prompting Joe Torre to call on Rivera. “When it’s a save situation, Mo comes in,” said Mussina. “He always does.” Rivera allowed a single by Walker, loading the bases with no outs. Nomar Garciaparra singled past a diving Jeter to bring home two runs, cutting New York’s lead to 5-3. Rivera got Millar to hit into a fielder’s choice for the second out, but Hillenbrand singled in Walker to make it a one-run game. Bill Mueller followed with an infield single to short, scoring pinch-runner Damian Jackson to tie the game at 5. “It was one of those games when you go out there and everything goes wrong,” Rivera said. “Nothing went right. I got ground balls, but they found holes. Those things happen.” “They just hit him,” Torre said. “He looked like he threw the ball pretty well, though he may not have located it as well as he’d have liked. It was just a bad day. He got roughed up. The best part about that was that we won the game.” Mussina allowed three runs on four hits in eight-plus innings, walking two and striking out four in the no-decision. “He was great today. His pitch count was down and he dominated,” Torre said. “It’s a shame that he didn’t come away with a win, because he certainly deserved it. Of course, it’s more important that we won.” “It was a big game,” Mussina said. “Every game against Boston is a big game whether we’re in first place or not. It’s big to play the Red Sox well, and it’s ultimately good to come out on top after fighting through it that long.” Rivera (1-0), who blew his first save in five opportunities this season, earned the victory. Lyon (1-2) took the loss. New York is now 4-2 against Boston this season, with 13 games to go between the two teams. The win also marked the first time since May 7-8 that the Yankees won two consecutive games. “The most important thing that came out of this is winning two games in a row. We haven’t done that for a while,” Torre said. “I feel best about the fact that we can get up to play a big game. We pitched two good games in a row, and that’s something to build on. To try to put a positive streak together right now is the most important thing.” Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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