Anytime Mariano Rivera allows runs -- especially in consecutive outings -- the chatter follows: Is this the beginning of the end? Has his famed cutter started failing him at 41?
Manager Joe Girardi believes that blowing a save Sunday in Boston and allowing a home run to former teammate Bobby Abreu Tuesday is the occasional blip Rivera goes through and that Rivera is still as close to automatic as it gets.
According to ESPN Stats and information, lefties are hitting Rivera’s cutters into groundballs 45 percent of the time and his BABIP is .328. Two years ago, it was 58.1 percent and .228 respectively.
“Usually when Mo has his little blips in the screen, sometimes they come back to back,” Girardi said. “Then he usually runs off a really good streak. If my sense is right, I think that’s what will happen.”
Rivera has a 2.23 ERA this season. His 39 strikeouts in 44 innings means hitters are putting more balls in play. Lefties are hitting .267 off him, up from .214 last season, which is hardly a thing for the Yankees to worry about, especially since they are more concerned with others such as A.J. Burnett.
“There’s an explanation that obviously people have seen him more, but his velocity is not what it used to be,” Girardi said. “When I caught him, he was 94-95, now he is 90 to 93. So that’s going to make a little bit of difference but Mo year in year out is one of the best closers in the game -- whether he has lost a little bit on his fastball or not.”
Rivera has allowed runs in consecutive outings 21 times since becoming closer in 1997. He has allowed runs in three straight outings just three times, which is among the numerous reasons the Yankees remain unconcerned about an occasional blip from Rivera.
Follow Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.