Yankees closer Rivera now standing alone

New York Yankees' Mariano Rivera smiles as he is interviewed during batting practice before a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins on Monday, Sept. 19, 2011, at Yankee Stadium in New York. Rivera is tied with Trevor Hoffman at 601 career saves. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)
New York Yankees' Mariano Rivera smiles as he is interviewed during batting practice before a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins on Monday, Sept. 19, 2011, at Yankee Stadium in New York. Rivera is tied with Trevor Hoffman at 601 career saves. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek) (Kathy Kmonicek)
Posted: September 20, 2011

As he had 298 times before, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning - setting down the Twins' Trevor Plouffe, Michael Cuddyer and Chris Parmelee. In doing so, he picked up the save in New York's 6-4 win over Minnesota on Monday, as he had 602 times since May 17, 1996.

Then, for probably the first time, he stayed on the Yankee Stadium mound (at the urging of Jorge Posada) to bask in the cheers of the 40,045 fans - the smallest crowd in the life of the new stadium.

Rivera smiled, blew a kiss, and doffed his cap to acknowledge the adulation for breaking the mark Trevor Hoffman set with San Diego (plus a cameo in Milwaukee).

Rivera's 602 saves have come in 674 chances. Hoffman got his 601 in 677 tries.

The 41-year-old future Hall-of-Famer's consistency at the top of his craft for so long while primarily throwing just the cutter ("You've got a 99 percent chance of knowing what's coming," said Cuddyer, "and he still is able to go out there and dominate.") is amazing enough.

What's most amazing is that Rivera is so low-key in a role that has seen a variety of characters ranging from the Mad Hungarian to the Beard.

"I like to be under the radar, do my job," River said. "Thank God it's over, too. Because I was getting a little uncomfortable."

Well, we'll never tire of seeing you jogging in to Metallica's "Enter Sandman," Mo.

End of the battle?

Rivera's span of success is a reminder that athletes' greatness can have the momentariness of mayflies and their careers can contain the travails of a Greek tragedy.

Case in point: Cubs reliever Kerry Wood, who is done for the season with a meniscus tear in his left knee.

Wood said he hurt himself about two hours after pitching 11/3 scoreless innings on Saturday in a 2-1 win over the Houston Astros. "Squatted down, stood up, and that was it."

The 34-year-old righthander says he hopes to pitch for Chicago again next year, if the team offers him a contract, but will retire if they don't.

It was hard to imagine anything but a Hall of Fame ending back in 1998, when in his fifth career start, Wood tossed a one-hit, no-walk, 20-strikeout shutout against the Houston Astros, tying Roger Clemens' record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game. He finished the season with the NL Rookie of the Year award and elbow soreness that led to Tommy John surgery, missed a year, and was never the same.

But you have to admire the way he battled back to have a decent 13-year career, going 86-73 with 63 saves mostly with the Cubs, with stints with the Cleveland Indians and Yankees along the way.


Contact staff writer Michael Harrington at mharrington@phillynews.com.

This article contains information from Inquirer wire services.

 

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