Tino Martinez has run over to second base to back up a play hundreds of times this season, thousands of times in his career.
It finally paid off Friday night.
A rare 8-3 putout at second base was the key to the game, and the Yankees stretched a winning streak to nine for the third time this season, beating the Rangers 6-4 and knocking Texas out of first place in the AL West.
"I haven't been involved in a play like that, even in Little League," said center fielder Bernie Williams, who made the throw to Martinez.
New York, on pace to smash the record of 116 wins in a season, led 3-1 in the seventh inning when Will Clark popped to short center with Juan Gonzalez at first. The ball bounced off the glove of shortstop Derek Jeter, but Williams was able to pick it up and quickly throw to second.
Martinez was already waiting.
"When both infielders go out for a popup, I usually go to second base in case that happens," Martinez said. "I don't do any good at first."
Still, he couldn't recall ever getting an out at second.
"One of the reasons the Yankees are winning," Clark said. "It's the little things."
Gonzalez didn't run until he knew the ball would fall.
"It was an important play," he said. "I could only go halfway; I couldn't get doubled off. And when I saw the ball, I started going, but it was too late."
Ivan Rodriguez then singled, but Andy Pettitte (14-6) escaped trouble when Todd Zeile popped out and Mike Simms fanned on a 3-2 pitch. New York broke open the game in the bottom half, chasing Aaron Sele (13-10) on Knoblauch's RBI single and Jeter's two-run single.
"They're not doing it with mirrors," Rangers manager Johnny Oates said. "If you've won 89 this early in the year, you're doing a lot of things right."
Pettitte, backed by solo homers from Williams and Chuck Knoblauch, won for the eighth time in his last nine decisions and New York (89-29) improved to 60 games over .500, the high since the 1939 Yankees finished 106-45.
"Sixty games over .500 and we're in the middle of August. It's an incredible run," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
After winning the opener of this four-game series 2-0 Thursday night, New York beat the Rangers for the fifth time in six games this season, improving its home record to 47-8.
Texas, meanwhile, lost for the fifth time in six games, falling out of the top spot for the first time since Aug. 1, a half-game behind Anaheim.
Pettitte, just 4-3 against Texas coming in, allowed three runs and seven hits in seven-plus innings. He left with a 6-1 lead but Ramiro Mendoza gave up Tom Goodwin's sacrifice fly and Clark's RBI single.
In his previous start, Pettitte allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings against Kansas City. That was his first appearance after missing a turn because of a tender left shoulder.
"I was just real uptight last start," Pettitte said. "I don't know -- missing a start, I was a nervous wreck."
Mariano Rivera got out of a two-out jam in the eighth by retiring Rodriguez on a grounder and finished for his 32nd save, allowing Simms a solo homer in the ninth.
At this point, the Yankees aren't playing opponents, they're playing against themselves.
"The only way you can make the intensity," Torre said, "is challenge yourself and not look up at the scoreboard or the standings."
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