I think it’s time for a Mariano Rivera Appreciation Thread.
In a way, it’s been a rough month for Mo. In Boston, he didn’t pitch because Joe Girardi opted for lesser relievers late in a close game. In New York a few days earlier, he gave up the game while battling what sounded like a very bad stomach flu. Then against the Mets, he almost drew a loss but walked away with a win when Luis Castillo forgot how to use two hands. After that, he threw an inning against the Nationals on the 16th and well, sat for eight days.
So last night, the Yankees called upon Mariano in the 8th. Tony Peña, taking a page from my playback but no the accepted MLB Managerial Handbook of Relief Pitching, called upon Rivera with the Yanks up by just two runs in the 8th. Rivera recorded the third out of the inning via the K, and then a funny thing happened on the way to the 9th: Rivera actually had to come to the plate.
With two outs and the bases loaded, Mariano Rivera was due for just his second plate appearance of his career. His last time up was June 20, 2006 against the Phillies. It had been a while, to say the least.
Rivera was, of course, unprepared. According to Bryan Hoch, he had to use Cody Ransom’s bat and Alfredo Aceves’ helmet. Melky offered Mo the use of his batting gloves, and his coaches told him not to swing.
Rivera ignored those instructions. He swung at a fastball and lined it to Nate McClouth in center. It could have been a two-run single. After the game, Rivera was apologetic. “I’ve got to take a swing,” Rivera said. “I apologized to my pitching coach and manager, but I had to do it.”
The players were laughing about it, and Joe Girardi was fairly amused. “It’s not what you really want to see, but he had quite a swing,” Girardi said. “When he hit it, I thought we were going to get a few more runs on the board.” If only.
Meanwhile, Rivera went back out for the 9th and promptly ended the game. He threw 15 pitches in the 9th, and just four of them were out of the strike zone. No one managed to put the ball in play against the Braves, and Matt Diaz, Nate McLouth and Yunel Escobar all struck out. For Rivera, it was just another night in the park: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 4 K, 15 of 19 pitches for strikes. Game over. Order restored. Yanks win. And that is Mariano for you. What we will do without him in a few years, I do not know.