Midseason baseball may seem meaningless at times, but yesterday was more than meaningful for one of the all-time greats.
Yankees closer Mariano Rivera became the first pitcher to appear in 1,000 games with the same team by closing out the ninth inning of a 7-3 victory over the Blue Jays. It was just another milestone for the man with the most saves in postseason and American League history.
“Being in the big leagues, I didn’t care what I was doing, starter or reliever,” Rivera said. “You have to make sure you do your part. You have to be blessed. You have to be proud.”
He hits the mark 16 years and two days since his major league debut, when he lasted 3 1/3 innings as a starting pitcher against Anaheim. He left the hill yesterday afternoon by striking out JP Arencibia to lower his ERA to 1.71.
“I reflect on all the things that he’s done,” manager Joe Girardi said. “What comes to mind is 1996 when I got here and had a chance to catch
him in the bullpen. I’m like who’s this kid. His stuff was electric. He
was throwing 97 [mph], throwing wherever he wanted to.
“He could cut. He could elevate and I was like, ‘I never even heard of
him’ because I had been a National Leaguer my whole career. I was traded
over here in fall of 1995 and I was like this kid’s special. He kind of
broke in slowly until all of a sudden by the end he was going two
innings, 2 2/3 innings shutting clubs down. The game seemed to be over
after the sixth inning.”
Now, the game seems to end after eight frames. While fellow veterans are bottoming out, Rivera is tied for the AL lead with 13 saves and has a WHIP below 1.00 for the fourth straight season. All at the ripe age of 41.
“Every aspect of what’s he doing is incredible,” GM Brian Cashman said. “He’s a one-pitch pitcher from a small fishing village in Panama and pitching in one of the largest cities in the world. It’s incredible.”
“It’s hard to kind of grasp how many times 1,000 appearances is because there are certain things he might be physically ready to do but the score might not dictate if he gets into the game if we get too big of a lead or too big of a deficit.”
Making Rivera’s latest milestone possible were the efforts of an offense that belted three more home runs, boasting its major-league leading total to 75. The latest bomb came from Andruw Jones and Mark Teixeira.
Jones did his Jose Bautista impression by slugging a pair of two-run shots.
His 41st career multi-home run game began with one out in the second inning when he launched a change-up from left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes into the left-center field seats. He finished a 3-for-3 day by crushing a first-pitch fastball from southpaw reliever Luis Perez to straightaway center field.
“It was a great day for Andruw and this is what we signed him for,” Girardi said. You know they’re not going to do that every day. But it’s just a big day for Andruw and a big lift for us.”
Freddy Garcia took a shutout into the sixth and allowed three runs and eight hits in six-plus innings to improve to 3-4.
“I think Freddy is very clever,” Girardi said. “I think he understands how to pitch to the scoreboard. I think he understands how to pitch with runners in scoring position and when there’s nobody on. He’s got a lot of pitches and weapons he can go to and I think he reads swings well.”
Bautista had an eighth-inning single for his first hit since hitting his 19th home run Monday. The early front-runner for AL MVP finished 2-for-10 this series and yesterday was caught stealing and erased on a double play.
Rafael Soriano’s elbow injury saga took him to Pensacola Florida, where he consulted with Dr. James Andrews. After the win, Cashman said that Andrews found an inflamed ligament in his right elbow.
Andrews recommended two weeks of rest followed by a conservative throwing program with a six to eight week progression leading up to eventually facing live hitters.
“He’s obviously got a real issue and it’s something we’ve got to take care of,” Cashman said.
Since Soriano is expected to be out until at least July, the roles shift up by one inning, meaning that Joba Chamberlain gets the eighth and David Robertson gets the seventh. It also puts Luis Ayala into a prominent position for the first time since he spent the final month of 2008 closing games for the Mets.
“I think we have the personnel is place and down below to get us through,” Cashman said.
In what Cashman described as an administrative move, the Yankees moved Phil Hughes to the 60-day DL. That was done so Kanekoa Teixeira can be added to the 40-man roster after being claimed off waivers.
Jones is the first player to have a multi home run game for and against the Yankees at the current Yankee Stadium. He also did it May 1, 2010 for the Chicago White Sox and 12 of his last 32 hits off lefties have been home runs.
Reyes is now winless in 28 starts dating to June 10, 2008. He tied the major league record shared by Cliff Curtis of the Boston Braves in 1910-11 and Matt Keough with the Oakland Athletics in 1978-79.