SEATTLE -- It's hard to believe it took David Phelps a month to crack the Yankees' rotation. Regardless, it doesn't appear as if he will be leaving it anytime soon.
After allowing one hit in six shutout innings against the Indians on Tuesday night, Phelps matched Felix Hernandez inning for inning Sunday in the Yankees' 2-1 win over the Mariners, a game in which neither starter got a decision.
"Both pitched great. David and Felix pitched tremendous games," said Mariano Rivera, who threw a shaky ninth in recording his 23rd save in 24 chances. The closer then synopsized the afternoon, the kind the Yankees (37-26), who just finished a stretch of 17 straight games 9-8, have become familiar.
"We've been winning games like that since the season started. Every day, it's a different guy. That's what we do."
Phelps was among the key contributors Sunday, along with Boone Logan, David Robertson and Rivera. Logan pitched a scoreless seventh and Robertson struck out Jason Bay and Nick Franklin to strand a runner on third in the eighth. Rivera allowed two hits and a walk in the ninth but, helped by a double play, preserved the lead.
The Yankees received four hits from Brett Gardner -- who is 13-for-25 in his last seven games and has seven hits in his last nine at-bats -- and the go-ahead hit from a surprising source who didn't think he'd have a chance to come through.
"Usually, I don't get a chance to be in that spot, especially with a righthander out there," said Chris Stewart, whose two-out single in the ninth off Yoervis Medina drove in Ichiro Suzuki to make it 2-1. "Fortunately, Joe had confidence in me."
Girardi said he considered pinch hitting for Stewart, something he typically does late in close games. But a consultation with hitting coach Kevin Long resulted in Stewart's getting a shot. "K-Long liked the matchup and I did, too,'' Girardi said, "and we stuck with it."
Ichiro drew a leadoff walk and went to second on Jayson Nix's sacrifice bunt. After Reid Brignac flied out, Stewart hit a sharp grounder through the hole between third and short on a 97-mph fastball and Ichiro easily beat Raul Ibañez's throw home.
"He's had some big RBI [this season],'' Girardi said. "Maybe none bigger than this one."
Hernandez allowed one run and five hits in seven innings. He walked two, struck out seven and lowered his ERA to 2.49. After Gardner's RBI single in the second, Hernandez allowed one hit in his final 52/3 innings, Gardner's one-out double in the fifth.
After an erratic beginning, Phelps got into a rhythm, allowing one run, three hits and three walks in six innings. He didn't allow a hit in his final 41/3 innings. Phelps, who came in 3-2 with a 3.66 ERA in seven previous starts this season, struck out six.
"I made a little adjustment in my mechanics and it paid off, but I was still throwing stuff all over the place," said Phelps, who allowed all three of his hits and two of the walks in the first two innings. "It was a battle."
And it was against one of the best, making his margin for error small. "He's done it for so long and he's done it so well, you know a lot of times you might only get one run," Phelps said. "So you just try to pitch your game and keep them off the board as much as possible."
The Yankees, who continue this 10-game, three-city trip Tuesday night in Oakland, have won six of seven after losing seven of eight. "A week ago, we had lost four straight to the Mets and two of three to the Red Sox and everybody was probably doubting us again," Gardner said. "But we've been playing pretty good, our guys continue to pitch well and different guys are stepping up every day. Stewie came up with a big hit today. Phelps pitched great, the bullpen pitched great, and it's a much-needed off day tomorrow."