Stewart's single in the ninth leads Yankees past Mariners after Phelps' strong outing
Stewart had a tiebreaking RBI single in the ninth and David Phelps matched efforts with Felix Hernandez for six innings to help New York beat the Seattle Mariners 2-1 on Sunday.
''It's really nice. Usually I don't get a chance to be in that spot, especially with right-hander out there,'' said the journeyman catcher. ''Fortunately, Joe had confidence in me and I went up there trying to see a ball up and over the plate. Fortunately, he left one for me and I was able put I through the hole.''
Ichiro Suzuki drew a walk from Yoervis Medina (1-2) to open the ninth. Jayson Nix sacrificed him to second. Then with two outs, Stewart bounced a grounder to through the left side as Suzuki, the former Mariners star, scored easily to help New York take three of four from Seattle.
The ''book'' would dictate that Girardi pinch-hit for Stewart with a left-handed bat off his bench such as Lyle Overbay. But Girardi said that would have prompted Mariners manager Eric Wedge to go with a lefty reliever.
''K Long liked the matchup,'' Girardi said of hitting coach Kevin Long, ''and so did I. So we stuck with it. Sometimes you're thinking about your hitter and what he likes. And we liked the matchup.
''He's had some big RBIs for us, maybe none bigger than this one,'' he added.
Mariano Rivera allowed two hits and a walk in the bottom of the ninth in finishing for his 23rd save in 24 opportunities this season and majors-best 631st of his career. Rivera has converted 37 of 39 save chances in his career against Seattle.
David Robertson (4-1), who worked out of an eighth-inning jam, earned the victory.
Brett Gardner had four hits for the Yankees, finishing 8-for-14 for the three-game series. It was his second four-hit game this season.
Phelps worked six innings, allowed just three hits, one run and struck out six. He walked three. Hernandez went one inning deeper, giving up five hits and two walks in seven innings. He allowed a run and struck out seven.
The Yankees had their best chance to get to Hernandez early, loading the bases in the first inning. Gardner singled to right and, with two outs, Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells walked. It was first time Hernandez issued back-to-back walks this season.
Suzuki then struck out on a pitch in the dirt.
Hernandez threw 26 pitches in the inning, the second most pitches he has thrown in an inning this season. That ultimately limited his staying power at the back end, leaving after throwing 108 pitches through seven.
''The first inning we had a couple full-count walks but we really forced him to make pitches all day,'' Stewart said. ''We were not just going up there swinging. It had a wear and tear on his body. He really had to work out there. Going seven is still pretty good, but we were lucky to get him out then.''
Hernandez said, ''I was struggling the first two innings. I was opening too quick. I was up and wild. After that, I just tried to calm down and make good pitches.''
The Yankees pushed a run across in the second. Jayson Nix opened with a single through the right side and stolen second. With one out, Stewart reached on a bunt, moving Nix to third. Gardner sent him home with a single to center.
But the Mariners came right back in the bottom half. Kelly Shoppach hit a one-out double to left and Michael Saunders moved him to third with a groundout. He scored on Brendan Ryan's infield single to deep short.
That would be that last hit by the Mariners over the next 5 1/3 innings. Phelps retired 10 straight batters at one point, five by strikeouts.
Hernandez also settled in as he allowed just one hit over the last 18 batters he faced, striking out the final two in the seventh.
It was Hernandez's 22nd career no-decision when pitching at least seven innings and allowing one or no runs. He remains 8-5 in 16 career starts against the Yankees with a 2.89 ERA.
''We can't keep watching this. We've got to be better offensively,'' Wedge said. ''When we do create opportunities, we're not taking advantage of them.''
The Mariners had their best chance to go ahead in the eighth. Alex Liddi opened with a double to right off Robertson. Ryan sacrifice him to third. But Robertson struck out both Jason Bay and Nick Franklin.
''I was just looking to hit it,'' said Bay, on his at-bat. ''There's times I strike out as much as anybody but by the time he threw three nasty curveballs there was really not a lot I could do.''
Kyle Seager's single in the ninth extended his hitting streak to 13 games.
NOTES: The Yankees won the season series over the Mariners, 4-3. The Yankees are 9-0-2 in season series against Seattle since 2003. ... The Mariners traded minor league infielder Vinnie Catricala, 24, to Oakland for a player to be named or cash considerations. Catricala was designated for assignment June 2 when RHP Jeremy Bonderman was selected from Triple-A Tacoma. . Kevin Youkilis was held out of the Yankee lineup because of lower back stiffness. He hurt the back sliding into first Saturday on a defensive play. With Monday's off day, Manager Joe Girardi hopes two full days out of the lineup can help him recover. ... Gardner's first-inning stolen base gave him 147 for his Yankee career. That passed Bert Daniels and tied Bernie Williams and Tony Lazzeri for 13th place on the franchise's list. ... Three members of the U.S. National soccer team were part of the first-pitch ceremony, goalkeeper Tim Howard, forwards Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson.