Wright leaves with neck injury in loss

SEATTLE (AP) -- The New York Yankees thought the line drive that knocked Jaret Wright out of the game cost them a victory. Still, they were happy to leave Seattle with the pitcher on the team plane instead of in the hospital.

Raul Ibanez's sixth-inning liner Thursday hit Wright on the right collarbone and the right side of his neck, forcing him from the game. X-rays were negative, but the Mariners rallied for a 5-1 win.

"There's no question it was a momentum changer," Alex Rodriguez said. "He was breezing along and getting stronger."

Leading 1-0 when Wright was struck, the Yankees lost after Miguel Ojeda's first home run with Seattle broke a 1-all tie in the seventh.

"He comes out of the game and everything turns around," New York catcher Jorge Posada said.

Despite the loss, the Yankees were happy that Wright appeared to escape serious injury.

In the clubhouse after the game, Wright pulled down his crew neck shirt and displayed an ugly, red, three-inch knot on the side of his neck.

"It was a pitcher's worst nightmare," he said. "You throw the ball and then it's right there on you. He got me pretty good."

The right-hander stayed down on the mound for a few minutes as players rushed to his aid and then helped him to his feet. Without taking any warmups, he walked to the dugout under his own power.

"It hurts right now," an obviously uncomfortable Wright said. "My neck's real stiff and I have a headache. But it could have been worse."

Yankees manager Joe Torre feared the worst. He was afraid the ball hit Wright in the face. Instead, he said, it hit him in the collarbone and then ricocheted off his neck.

"That's about as scary as it gets," Torre said. "We're just happy the results are what they were."

Playing third base, Rodriguez was also concerned.

"I was scared to death," he said. "That ball looked like it was 110 mph off the bat. Obviously, the health of your pitcher is the most important thing."

Wright pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowing one run and three hits. It was his eighth start of the season, his fourth since coming off the 60-day disabled list on Aug. 15 following a shoulder injury. It was the eighth time he was on the disabled list in his nine-year career, the sixth because of a shoulder problem.

"When I hit it, I thought it was going towards his face and I was hoping it didn't hit him in the face," Ibanez said. "When I got to first base, [coach] Mike Goff told me he thought it was hit in the neck area, which is still a scary moment. You never want anybody to get hurt that you play against."

Torre and Wright said it was too early to tell if the pitcher would miss a turn.

"Hopefully, it feels better tomorrow," Wright said.

After Wright came out, Tanyon Sturtze (4-3) walked Richie Sexson. Sturtze got Adrian Beltre to fly out, but Dave Hansen singled to score Ibanez from second and tie the score at 1.

That broke a streak of 19 scoreless innings by Yankees pitchers in the series. But they managed only a four-game split before heading to AL West-leading Oakland.

Ojeda, a light-hitting catcher acquired in a trade with San Diego on July 30, connected off Sturtze with one out in the seventh, his 13th major-league homer. It came in his fifth game with the Mariners.

In the ninth, Ibanez singled and scored from first on Beltre's double off Ramiro Mendoza to make it 3-1. Jose Lopez added a two-run homer, his first of the season.

The Yankees began the day 2½ games behind first-place Boston in the AL East and one game ahead of the Angels in the wild-card race.

New York took a 1-0 lead in the first with one out against Joel Pineiro. Hideki Matsui singled, Gary Sheffield walked and Rodriguez singled to center for his 106th RBI.

In his 25th start of 2005, Pineiro pitched 6 2/3 innings, giving up one run and five hits with seven strikeouts. After replacing Pineiro in the seventh, George Sherrill (3-2) struck out Matsui with a runner on first to end the inning.

Pineiro, Sherrill, J.J. Putz and Eddie Guardado combined to limit the Yankees to six hits. Seattle had eight hits off our pitchers.

Game notes
It was Mendoza's first major-league appearance since Oct. 2, 2004, with Boston. ... First baseman Tino Martinez is expected to miss three to four days with a strained right rib cage, Torre said before the game. Martinez injured himself on a check swing before grounding into a double play in the seventh inning of Wednesday night's 2-0 victory. As insurance, the Yankees called up first baseman Andy Phillips from Triple-A Columbus. ... The Yankees have sold more than 4 million tickets for the 2005 regular season, setting a franchise record and approaching Toronto's AL record of 4,057,947 tickets sold in 1993. They have sold approximately 4,038,000 tickets, an increase of more than 236,000 at this point in 2004.
... The Yankees won the season series 7-3.