Phil Niekro won the 298th game of his career, pitching seven shutout innings before needing relief help in the eighth last night in New York as the Yankees defeated the Seattle Mariners, 6-3.
New York, with its fourth straight victory, moved within 3 1/2 games of American League East-leading Toronto, which was idle.
Niekro (14-9) extended his scoreless inning streak to 17 before issuing bases-loaded walks to Dave Henderson and Danny Tartabull with two out in the eighth. The 46-year-old knuckleballer was bidding to become the oldest pitcher in major league history to pitch a shutout.
"If I get that (the shutout) that would be great," said Niekro, who threw 159 pitches in his 7 2/3 innings of work. "More importantly, this was a win for the Yankees. I told them to take me out. I had had it."
Dave Righetti then relieved Niekro, who had given up five hits. Righetti threw a wild pitch, allowing a run to score, and gave up a walk that loaded the bases before retiring Jack Perconte on a grounder. Righetti pitched the ninth for his 25th save.
Dan Pasqua's two-run homer, his sixth of the season, completed New York's five-run first inning against Billy Swift (4-9).
The Mariners loaded the bases with nobody out in the sixth inning but right fielder Dave Winfield caught Jim Presley's fly and gunned down Alvin Davis at the plate as Seattle failed to score.
"That was a big play," Niekro said. "I guess when I struck out Henderson right after that I showed some emotion, but how can you help showing emotion?"
Said Seattle's Gorman Thomas of Niekro: "That guy has the ball floating all over the place. There is no reason you can't hit him, but you can't."