The Yankees appear to have another MVP candidate at just the right time.
And it’s not absent A-Rod.
Mark Teixeira hit a solo home run in the top of the ninth, his second game-deciding homer of the week, and New York rolled on without Alex Rodriguez, beating the Seattle Mariners 4-2 on Friday night.
A subsequent double by Robinson Cano and RBI single by Nick Swisher capped New York’s major league-leading 38th comeback win and 11th victory in 12 games. The Yankees stayed 6½ games ahead of Boston in AL East.
They are 22-6 since the All-Star break, their best start to a second-half since 1941.
“We expect this of ourselves,” said Teixeria, a high-priced free agent signee who is on his way to having 30 home runs and 100 RBIs for a sixth consecutive season. “I’ve been on teams that are happy and surprised to win. We expect to win every game.”
Teixeira, who had a tiebreaking homer against Boston on Sunday, admitted he was trying to hit a home run off hard-throwing Mark Lowe (1-5). He nailed a centered, 87 mph pitch — Lowe said he wasn’t trying to trick Teixeira but just come right after him.
Bad idea. The ball landed just below the second deck well beyond right field to break a 2-all tie that had stood since the fifth. The Yankees’ dugout, where Rodriguez watched because of back spasms, went wild. Teixeira exhaled deeply and took a celebratory crow hop.
“Yeah, I’m getting grief for that, too. It’s a happy hop,” said Teixeira, who is second in the AL with 30 home runs and tied with Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria for second with 86 RBIs. “I’m probably the most boring player in baseball, so that’s what I can do for excitement.”
The Yankees would dispute that. They are gaga over what Teixeira is providing at the plate and at first base in the initial season of his $180 million, eight-year contract.
“You read about the numbers, but there’s something more to it when you watch it every day. You see how great a player he is,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “You see all the things he does: big hits, defense. I think he’s a legitimate (MVP) candidate.”
The fact New York is 30 games over .500 for the first time since finishing the 2006 regular season 32 games over doesn’t hurt Teixeira’s candidacy.
Mariano Rivera earned his major league-leading 34th save in 35 chances, and 30th consecutive conversion — another major league best. He became the 22nd player in major league history to pitch in 900 games.
“‘Mo,’ to do it in these pressure situations, that’s amazing,” Girardi marveled.
The Mariners, who were routed 11-1 by New York on Thursday, lost consecutive games for the first time this month. They fell 6½ games behind the Red Sox in the AL wild-card standings.
Rodriguez missed his second consecutive start — Girardi said it’s “50-50″ that he’ll play Saturday — and Jerry Hairston Jr. had an RBI fielder’s choice while subbing at third base.
That disappointed the thousands who always turn out to boo the former Mariner whenever he returns to Seattle, yet at least one sign in the stands derided him as “A-Roid.”
With the scored tied and two outs in the eighth, New York’s Phil Hughes (5-3) walked Ken Griffey Jr. on 10 pitches. Then Russell Branyan walked. But Hughes got Jack Hannahan, the fill-in while Adrian Beltre is on the disabled list, to swung under a 95 mph fastball to end the inning.
One night after CC Sabathia struck out a season-high 10, Andy Pettitte used his slider to strike out his season high of 10 against the AL’s lowest-scoring team, his most strikeouts in three years. Pettitte allowed six hits and two runs in six innings. The two runs came in Seattle’s first four batters.
New York forged the 2-2 tie in a fluky fifth. Melky Cabrera barely beat the throw to first base for an infield hit with two outs, while wearing a No. 13 wrist band apparently in honor of A-Rod. He took second on a wild pitch. He tied the game when Derek Jeter’s four-hop grounder went under the glove of third baseman Hannahan and shortstop Josh Wilson overran it by a step for a tricky single.
Rowland-Smith allowed three hits and two runs in seven innings.
“He worked his tail off,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said.
NOTES: The last time Pettitte struck out 10 was Aug. 21, 2006, for Houston against Cincinnati. … C Jorge Posada doubled and scored New York’s first run on a groundout by Hairston in the second. He sat out Thursday, a day after he was hit by foul tips in the mask, both hands and foot.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.