ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) - The Texas Rangers figured the game was over with their All-Star closer on the mound in the ninth inning.
That is, until an unusual slip by Joe Nathan led to a rare blown save.
Eduardo Nunez hit a tying triple on the full-count pitch right after Nathan threw a wild pitch when he caught his cleat on the mound, and then Brent Lillibridge followed with a go-ahead single to give the New York Yankees a 5-4 victory Tuesday night.
``The only thing I wish I could take back was that one that I slipped on,' Nathan said. ``If I make a better pitch there, at least set something up better for the 3-2 count, but I don't think he's going to chase a 30-footer after I slipped and was laying on the ground.'
Manager Ron Washington, pitching coach Mike Maddux and a trainer all went to the mound to check on Nathan, who stayed in the game.
``That was weird the way it happened,' Washington said.
Nathan had converted 15 consecutive save chances, and 31 of 32 this season. Texas had been 51-0 when leading after eight innings.
``In that case you have to give the Yankees credit for fighting the way they did,' Washington said. ``Anytime we put Joe out there, we figure the game is over. ... We just didn't get that one shut down.'
Mariano Rivera, who set up Nathan's save in the All-Star game a week earlier, struck out two in a perfect ninth for his 32nd save this season, extending his career record to 640.
Joba Chamberlain (2-0), the fourth Yankees pitcher, got help in his perfect eighth when center fielder Brett Gardner made two incredible catches - one against the wall before his running, leaping grab to end the inning.
New York's ninth-inning comeback got started when Vernon Wells drew a one-out walk from Nathan (1-1). Wells advanced to second on a pitch that ricocheted hard off the backstop, setting up a full count for Nunez.
``It all starts with an innocent walk, then you get a big at-bat by Nuney, then Lillibridge and you get a win,' Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Lillibridge more than made up for his fielding error at third base in the sixth that led to four unearned runs.
He almost got lifted for a pinch-hitter before the strange ninth-inning sequence with the wild pitch and then the near inside-the-park homer by Nunez. He stumbled on his way to third and practically flopped into the bag after hitting a ball to deep center just beyond the reach of Craig Gentry that bounced off the wall.
``I was looking at the ball and thought inside-the-park,' Nunez said. ``And then I went around second base, I tried too much and went down.'
Texas led 4-3 after Mitch Moreland greeted reliever Boone Logan in the sixth with a two-run homer, his 14th.
Alexi Ogando returned from the disabled list to start for Texas, and allowed three runs in five innings. Ross Wolf, Jason Frasor and Neal Cotts each had 1-2-3 innings, stretching the bullpen's scoreless streak to 25 1-3 innings before Nathan's rare flop.
Nelson Cruz reached on an error by Lillibridge in the sixth before an RBI double by Adrian Beltre, who scored on a single by Elvis Andrus that chased Phil Hughes.
Hughes struck out one and walked three while giving up three runs, all unearned, in 5 2-3 innings.
New York had gone more than two games without an extra-base hit before Melky Mesa and Austin Romine - the Nos. 8-9 hitters - had consecutive doubles for a 1-0 lead before an RBI infield single by Ichiro Suzuki.
Wells hit a leadoff double in the fourth and scored on a fielder's choice when second baseman Ian Kinsler fielded Lillibridge's grounder and short-hopped a throw to the plate.
NOTES: Before the game, Rivera visited about 20 workers at Rangers Ballpark, thanking them as he has in his final visit to every stadium in his final season. He met with members of the complex grounds crew, a mechanic and several workers who keep the televisions in the stadium working. The Rangers will honor Rivera in a pregame ceremony on the field Thursday. ... Rangers opening day starter Matt Harrison, on the disabled list since early April because of lower back surgery, is scheduled to throw batting practice Wednesday. ... Texas surpassed 2 million in season attendance in its 51st home game.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved