It was Derek Jeter’s night, fittingly.
The Yankees legend, making his final trip to Seattle before retirement, reached base three times and scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning as New York earned its first victory of the season against the Mariners, 3-2, Tuesday at Safeco Field.
Jeter’s certain Hall of Fame career was honored with a gift-giving ceremony before the game, and Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon could only offer another tip of the cap after the vintage performance.
“He played a nice game,” McClendon said. “I wish like hell he didn’t, but he played a nice game.”
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Seattle had won its first three games against the Yankees and can still take the season series for the first time since 2003 with a victory in either of the next two games.
The Mariners had been red hot, winning three in a row and eight of nine coming into the homestand. It looked like that run might continue when the hosts tied the game at 2-2 on a two-out run-scoring single by Dustin Ackley in the seventh that scored Mike Zunino from second.
Ackley admitted he didn’t think his soft liner would get over a leaping second baseman Brian Roberts: “Luckily I was able to sneak on over the infield.”
Insurance was needed, though, as New York quickly regained the lead in the eighth. Jeter got things started with a ground-rule double to center with one out, his 3,372nd career hit and the last pitch from Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma. Reliever Charlie Furbush came in and allowed the single to Jacoby Ellsbury that scored Jeter from second with the go-ahead run.
Mariners star Robinson Cano got on with one out in the eighth but didn’t get past first base as Endy Chavez and Kyle Seager each popped out to second base.
New York closer David Robertson struck out Zunino, Michael Saunders and pinch-hitter John Buck in the ninth to record his 15th save.
“That’s what good closers do,” McClendon said. “He made great pitches.”
The Yankees struck right away in the first inning Tuesday as the night’s honoree, Jeter, sparked a rally with a sharp single up the middle. He eventually scored on a double to left by Carlos Beltran.
New York added another run when a throw by Brad Miller at short, after a diving stop up the middle on a Brian McCann grounder, pulled Willie Bloomquist off first base, allowing Mark Teixeira to score from third.
The Mariners, coming off back-to-back shutouts thrown at the Tampa Bay Rays, had thrown 19 consecutive scoreless innings.
Seattle responded in the bottom of the first when Cano, booed by some in a bipartisan home crowd, doubled in the first inning to increase his hitting streak to eight games. He scored on a single by Cole Gillespie, who hit cleanup for the first time of his career.
Gillespie, who was caught stealing to end the inning, has a .423 batting average — 11 hits in 26 at-bats — over his past 11 games.
Yankees starter Vidal Nuno was able to shut out the M’s the next 42/3 innings before being relieved, and he got plenty of help from his defense in doing so, notably former Mariner Ichiro in right field and Ellsbury in center.
“I think the way we swung the bat today didn’t really indicate the score,” Ackley said. “A lot of guys squared some balls up and didn’t have any luck.”
Reliever Derrin Betances (4-0) earned the victory for New York.
Iwakuma, while issuing his fourth and fifth walks of the year, had settled down after a slow start, going six shutout innings after the first. He said he felt strong, which is why he was able to throw a season-high 108 pitches. The damage came in the eighth, however, as he took the loss to fall to 4-3.
Asked about the decision to send Iwakuma back out in the eighth, McClendon said: “What are you second-guessing? He’s my No. 2 starter. He had 102 pitches. He said he felt great. That’s baseball.”
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or email@example.com. On Twitter @joshuamayers.