Mariano Rivera smiled his dazzling smile, then explained how his dazzling right arm could fail.
"It happens," he said. "It just happens."
But because he plays for the New York Yankees, no harm was done. Chili Davis singled home the go-ahead run in the 10th inning Tuesday night and the Yankees overcame Rivera's second blown save for a 9-8 win over the Detroit Tigers.
Bobby Higginson's solo home run with two outs in the ninth off Rivera tied it at 8.
But Bernie Williams reached on a one-out infield single off Todd Jones (1-3) in the 10th, took third on a single by Tino Martinez and scored when Davis slapped a single up the middle.
"Of course, that's why the Yankees are the Yankees," Rivera said. "This is a great club."
Higginson hit the first homer off Rivera this season. Rivera (2-1), who had converted his previous 17 save opportunities, appeared well on his way to save No. 22 until Higginson hitless in three previous at-bats sent a full-count fastball into the second deck in right.
"That's got to be a big hit for Higgy," Detroit manager Larry Parrish said. "He's a guy that it's been a while since he hit one, and the to hit it off Rivera, who hadn't even given up one all year, I don't believe."
Ramiro Mendoza pitched the 10th for his third save for the Yankees.
"You wished, as much as we fought tonight, that we could have really gotten a win out of this," Parrish said. "It would have made it better, obviously."
Hideki Irabu, 5-0 against the Tigers, gave up three earned runs
and six hits in 6 1-3 innings, striking out six. He was at his overpowering best in the fourth when he struck out Tony Clark, Damion Easley and Frank Catalanotto in order.
Derek Jeter, who failed to reach base for only the second time all season in a 9-loss to Baltimore on Monday night, had two singles and a double. He scored a run in the second and drew a bases-loaded walk in the Yankees seventh.
Brad Ausmus hit two triples for the Detroit. The Tigers scored three times in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Catalanotto and Juan Encarnacion's two-run double off Rivera.
The Yankees, swept in a three-game series in April during their last visit to Detroit, scored six runs off Brian Moehler in the second.
Davis started the burst with the first of three doubles in the inning and scored on Jorge Posada's single to tie it at 1. Paul O'Neill had a two-run double and Tino Martinez made it 6-1 with an RBI double chasing Moehler.
"We never let down," Davis said. "Higginson's homer didn't bother us that much, because we weren't behind. This team is different. That's what I love about playing on this ballclub."
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed