When Joe Girardi summoned Mariano Rivera into the game with two outs and two on in the bottom of the 8th, it was the 561st time in his career that Rivera would enter with a save on the line. For the 500th time, Rivera would complete it. He is just the second closer to reach that lofty mark and the first to do so while driving in a run as well.
The Yankees headed into tonight’s game with a sense of urgency. The Red Sox had lost earlier in the day, and the Rays had won. They could gain a game on first place while keeping two games ahead of the charging Rays. Furthermore, the Yanks needed to see Chien-Ming Wang get that first win. It had been nearly one year and two weeks since his last victory.
Early on, the Yanks seemed to be rolling. Derek Jeter doubled, and then Nick Swisher hit into what should have been an out. Daniel Murphy, an outfielder pressed into duty at first base, tried to get Jeter at third and failed. Mark Teixeira hit a booming double to drive them in. A few batters later — after Murphy dropped the relay on a potential double play — Posada hit a sac fly to give the Yanks a 3-0 lead.
That would be it for a while though, and in fact, the Yanks had a frustrating offensive night. Livan Hernandez gave up just one more hit after the 1st, and the Yanks would add one more against K-Rod in the 9th. However, the team worked out 11 walks against the Mets. It was all for naught though as the Yanks went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position and hit into three double plays. On another night, we would have bemoaned it. Last night was a night for celebration.
After the first, the highlight of the day came during the 9th. K-Rod had some problems finding the zone, and with the bases loaded and two outs, Rivera’s spot came up. On Friday, he had just his second career at-bat, and he nearly managed to knock in a few with a line drive. Today, he was more patient. He saw seven pitches from K-Rod — including one foul ball — and the Yanks’ Hall of Fame closer worked out a bases loaded walk. It would be his first RBI of his career, and the timing — coming on the same night as his 500th save — could not be better.
It is fitting that Joe Girardi was the catcher for Rivera’s first save on May 17, 1996. It was Girardi who handed Mo the ball in the 8th. Rivera has now saved 18 of 19 this year, and after a hiccup earlier this month, his ERA is down to 2.93. He has walked three and struck out 39 in 30.2 innings of work. Superhuman, indeed.
Lost in the hullabaloo over Rivera was Chien-Ming Wang. After dominating Atlanta last week, he wasn’t as perfect against the Mets, but it worked. He allowed two earned runs and four hits against the Mets in 5.1 innings. He walked three and struck out three while tossing 49 of 85 pitches for strikes. While his sinker wasn’t as consistent as it should be, he generated 11 ground ball outs and just two fly outs — one on the first out of the game.
It’s hard to understate the psychological importance of that win. After a terrible start that had many of us questioning whether or not Wang should be in the rotation, he is seemingly settling down. If Wang can get back to form, the Yanks will have a fearsome rotation indeed.
As the Yanks wrap up Interleague Play, they head into an off-day feeling good. They’ve won five in a row and five of six against the Mets this year. They’ll face Seattle and Toronto this week, and I’m feeling good about the team.