Et Tu Mariano? Rivera Blows Save, Yanks Still Win

The Yankees and Red Sox just can't play a series without a lot of drama. Just when it seemed like the Yankees were hitting a stride, going into the ninth inning with a 5-1 lead on the back on Mike Mussina, the one Yankee who had still seemed invincible faltered. Mariano Rivera came on with two runners in the ninth inning and allowed four runs to blow the save. The Yankees fought back in the ninth inning though, scoring the winning run on a bases-loaded walk to win the game 6-5.

The victory clinched the series for the Yankees 2-1, and pulled them back to within a half of a game behind Boston in the AL East standings.

The Yanks came out swinging in the first two innings. Derek Jeter scored on Jorge Posada's RBI double in the first, Juan Rivera scored on Todd Zeile's RBI double in the second, and Hideki Matsui followed that a two-RBI double to give the Yankees an early 4-0 lead.

From there, it was Mussina's show. The Moose only allowed two hits through the first seven innings of the game, blanking the Sox along the way. By the time Shea Hillenbrand finally connected on a homerun in the eighth inning, the Yankees had already tacked on another run – via an Alfonso Soriano homer – and the score stood at 5-1.

With a four-run lead, Mussina appeared to be a lock to win his first game in his last four outings. But appearances can be deceiving. Mussina started the ninth inning by walking Jason Varitek and giving up a single to Johnny Damon. With the game now a save opportunity, Joe Torre called on Mariano Rivera to close things out.

It seems only fitting that Rivera – the only Yankee aside from Soriano who has performed to his potential – would falter, but nobody saw this coming.

Rivera gave up a single to Todd Walker to load the bases for Boston. With nobody out, Nomar Garciaparra stepped up the plate and ripped a two-RBI single past a diving Jeter to pull the Sox within two runs.

After Manny Ramirez flew out harmlessly to right and Kevin Millar grounded into a fielder's choice to put runners at the corners with two outs, Shea Hillenbrand struck again – this time singling to right field to bring Boston to within just one run. Next, Bill Mueller hit a sharp grounder deep in the hole near shortstop; Jeter gloved it but couldn't get the throw to first base in time and another run scored, tying the game at five.

Trot Nixon stepped up and hit the ball to second base, but Alfonso Soriano threw home to Posada who tagged out Hillenbrand who was trying to score, ending the inning and finally the threat.

It was Rivera's first blown save since last July 14, and it cost Mussina his first victory since May 7.

After Jeter grounded out to start the ninth inning, Hideki Matsui stepped in and ripped a double to left field. Manny Ramirez's throw to third base was wide, and Matsui advanced. Soriano and Jason Giambi were intentionally walked to load the bases for Jorge Posada. Boston closer Brandon Lyon, who had come on in the eighth inning and struck out Robin Ventura on three pitches, threw a 3-2 pitch out of the strike zone, walking Posada and giving the Yankees the dramatic victory.

Rivera (1-0) was credited with the win to go with his blown save, and Lyon (1-2) was charged with the loss.

Soriano's homerun in the eighth was his 16th of the season. He is now leading the American League in round-trippers.

The Yankees put together a two-game win streak for the first time since May 7 and 8 when they beat Seattle twice in a row.

Despite trailing Boston in the standings, the Yanks improved to 4-2 against the Sox this season.

After an off day Thursday, the Yankees head to Detroit to face the last-place Tigers for a three-game set. Jose Contreras (1-1, 8.74) will pitch game one in place of David Wells, who is out with an injured calf. He will face Gary Knotts (2-3, 4.09) of Detroit.

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