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Pettitte allowed two runs over 6 2/3 solid innings, Rivera protected an eighth-inning lead and Williams had three hits, including his 12th career postseason homer, as the Yankees posted an 8-2 triumph over the Seattle Mariners and took a 2-1 lead in the American League Championship Series.
For the second straight series, the Yankees have rebounded from a loss in the opener to take the next two games. Game Four is Saturday in Seattle and New York sends five-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens against the Mariners' Paul Abbott.
"We are up 2-1, but we were down 0-1 a couple of days ago and we realize how things can turn quickly," said Yankees manager Joe Torre.
"We've got our backs against the wall a little bit," Seattle superstar shortstop Alex Rodriguez admitted.
After splitting two games in New York, the Yankees gave the ball to Pettitte (2-0), who had won six of his previous seven playoff decisions. After struggling on three days' rest in Game Five of the AL Division Series, Pettitte got all the big outs tonight, scattering nine hits and a walk.
Pettitte improved to 8-4 lifetime in the postseason and for the second time in this year's playoffs came up big when New York needed him. The 28-year-old lefthander was masterful in winning Game Two in Oakland. On the road in the playoffs, Pettitte is 6-2 with a 3.22 ERA.
"They had a pretty good approach on me and we had to make some adjustments during the middle of the game, and I was able to go to a couple other pitches," he said. "I was able to use my changeup to get some big outs for me and that was really the key for me, I think."
"He walks that high wire without a safety net and gets himself in trouble," Torre said. "When he needed to get out of a jam, he made some quality pitches. Not that he made bad pitches before that. He's facing a good team and they are tough, but he's got a great deal of determination."
After Jeff Nelson retired two of the three batters he faced, Rivera inherited a 4-2 lead with one on and one out in the eighth. With a postseason scoreless streak of 31 2/3 innings on the line, Rivera retired pinch-hitter Stan Javier and John Olerud to preserve the lead.
New York broke open the contest with four runs in the top of the ninth and Rivera closed out Seattle in the bottom half. When Rivera retired Mark McLemore on a grounder to first base, he pushed his scoreless innings streak to 33 1/3 and passed Yankees great Whitey Ford for the longest in postseason history.
Rivera's streak extends over 23 appearances and dates to a home run by Cleveland's Sandy Alomar in Game Four of the 1997 ALDS.
"I didn't think about it at all," Rivera said. "I was thinking about winning, being happy to be in the postseason again. It just happened. I wasn't thinking at all.
"Yes, I know Whitey Ford since 1993, was in touch with him and talked a little bit about baseball. He's a great human being and he was a great player. And being a Yankee, that's the most respect that I have for him. I know he played very well and I'm just happy to be part of the Yankees, breaking the record as a Yankee, because it was a Yankee that holds it. So it was good."
When the game was tight, it was Williams who again provided the dramatics. He homered off Seattle starter Aaron Sele to open the second inning, singled and scored in the sixth, singled in the eighth and delivered a sacrifice fly in the ninth.
"I think we're just having a lot better at-bats," Williams said. "We're not swinging at the first pitch that often and we're making the guys throw strikes at us."
Sele (1-1) was tagged for four runs and nine hits in six innings. The veteran righthander fell to 0-3 in the postseason against New York, surrendering 12 runs and 23 hits in 17 innings.
"They know what they want to do," Sele said. "They have a game plan and they stay within their game plan. Quality hitters like that can take a pitcher's pitch and get just enough wood on it to foul it off. If you throw six or eight or 10 pitches, you're going to make a mistake sooner or later."
Seattle got on the board first. Mike Cameron beat out an infield hit with one out in the first inning and Rodriguez singled up the middle. Edgar Martinez, who entered the game 10-for-28 against Pettitte, singled to left field for a 1-0 lead. But the Yankees' starter dodged further trouble by retiring Jay Buhner and Olerud.
New York quickly seized the lead in the second as Williams led off with a homer and four pitches later Tino Martinez launched his sixth postseason blast. The Yankees hit just two home runs in their first 61 postseason innings.
Seattle put the first two batters aboard in the bottom of the second and McLemore bunted them over. But former Yankee Rickey Henderson bounced weakly to third and Cameron grounded softly to shortstop.
Scott Brosius, who was just 3-for-26 lifetime against Sele, opened the third with a single. One out later, Derek Jeter bounced into a forceout, but David Justice lined an RBI double to the left-center field gap for a 3-1 cushion.
Pettitte struck out Rodriguez and Buhner around a pickoff of Edgar Martinez in the third and held Seattle in check into the fifth, when Henderson doubled to the wall in right-center with one out and Cameron blooped a run-scoring single into shallow left field to slice the deficit to 3-2.
With the tying run on base, Pettitte again stepped up, retiring Rodriguez on a high fly ball and getting Edgar Martinez on a grounder to shortstop.
New York wasted little time extending its lead to 4-2, scoring in the sixth on a two-out RBI single by Paul O'Neill, his first hit of the series.
Pettitte cruised through the sixth and got Joe Oliver on a nice play by third baseman Brosius to open the seventh. Pettitte walked McLemore but got Henderson to fly out. Torre opted for Nelson, who struck out Cameron to end the inning.
After Brett Tomko tossed a scoreless eighth for Seattle, Nelson ran into trouble in the bottom of the inning. Rodriguez hit a bouncer up the middle and beat Jeter's wild throw from shortstop. After falling behind 2-0 on Martinez, Nelson struck out the AL RBI leader.
Torre summoned Rivera, who retired Javier on a slow roller to third before getting Olerud on a fly ball to left field.
"I just look forward and keep it going," Rivera said. "It is good for me to have, first of all. And now that I broke (the record), it is good for me and my family to know that we've been there."