Mariano Rivera and the quiet pursuit of history

Say your prayers... (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

As Yankees fans, we’re privy to seeing a lot of great things on the field and a lot of history being made. Just this year we saw Derek Jeter pick up his 3,000th career hit in a way only one other man has done (a homer), and last year it was Alex Rodriguez‘s 600th career homer. We’ve seen Roger Clemens get his 300th career win and Mike Mussina his 2,800th career strikeout in recent years, but one little piece of history seems to be flying under the radar late this season: Mariano Rivera is closing in on the all-time saves record.

Yesterday’s win gave Rivera his 38th save of the season and 597th of his career. Only the great Trevor Hoffman has closed more ballgames in his time, a total of 601 career saves. Lee Smith is a distant third on the career saves list at 497. With 23 games left to play and the Yankees piling up the wins down the stretch, there’s a pretty strong chance that Mo will become the second member of the 600 save club and even surpass Hoffman as the all-time saves king before the season ends. It’s not a lock, but it’s certainly possible.

Perhaps the lack of buzz surrounding Rivera’s pursuit of the record has to do with saves being a silly stat on a micro level (like wins or RBI). On a macro level though, over the course of an entire career, they do bear some meaning. For one, a saves total of that caliber indicates longevity in an occupation that rarely has any. We see it every year, closers come and go at a moment’s notice, losing their jobs to the next big thing who eventually loses his job to the next big thing, and so on. The heightened awareness of the ninth inning in today’s game puts any closer meltdowns in the national spotlight, so teams are quick to make a change. Longevity and durability in the role with perhaps the greatest turnover in the game is impressive.

On the other hand, perhaps it has to do with the fact that we already know Mariano is the greatest closer of all-time, with or without the saves record. With all due respect to Hoffman, Mo has allowed 73 fewer earned runs and walked 33 fewer batters despite throwing 113.2 more innings (in a tougher division) in his career. That doesn’t even count postseason heroics, which are obviously influenced by the teams they played on. Add in Rivera’s 42 career playoff saves, and he’s at 639 compared to Hoffman’s 605. But again, you can’t hold the fact that Hoffman played on a generally bad to mediocre team against him.

With any luck, Mariano will pick up those last five saves to surpass Hoffman’s all-time record at some point before the end of the season, just so we can watch the celebration and all the recognition that comes along with it. If he doesn’t get it this year, well that’s fine too, because we already know that Mo is the greatest reliever of all-time and don’t need the extra validation. I would like to see him get the record in the coming weeks because Rivera is perpetually humble and always team-first, and I want to see him get honored and celebrated for his accomplishments. Like Jeter and his 3,000th hit, it’s okay for Mo to sit back, soak it all in, and make it all about himself for once.

Montero homers twice as Yanks win fifth straight

Freddy Garcia sure picked a good day to have his worst outing of the year. The bats showed up for both teams on Monday while the pitchers apparently decided to take the day off in observance of our nation’s workforce. Let’s recap the win…

  • Obviously, the big story of the day is Jesus Montero‘s first two career homeruns. Both came off a pretty good reliever in Jim Johnson, who came into the game having allowed just three homers all year (0.35 HR/9), one off a righty. The first one was a fifth inning solo shot on a fastball up that gave the Yankees a 9-8 lead, the second a seventh inning two-run job on a fastball down that extended the lead to 11-8. Both were opposite field out to right (not cheap either), making Montero the first 21-year-old to hit two homers in a game since Manny Ramirez. It was quite fun to watch, I must say.
  • Garcia got bounced after just 2.2 IP, after allowed nine hits and seven runs. Both Nick Markakis and Mark Reynolds tagged him for homers. Not a particularly great day for the starter, who gave way to Scott Proctor. Proctor allowed a game-tying solo homer in Robert Andino in the fifth, his only real blemish in two innings. Then came Aaron Laffey (0.2 IP), Luis Ayala (1.2 IP), Boone Logan (0.2), and Cory Wade (0.1 IP), all generally effective. Joe Girardi said after the game that both David Robertson and Rafael Soriano were unavailable due to their recent workloads, so it was a good day to have some September call-ups lying around.
  • Lost in Montero’s day was Robinson Cano‘s third grand slam of the season, perhaps the most predictable grand slam of all time. I’m not quite sure what Matt Wieters and Chris Jakubauskas were thinking throwing him seven straight 91 mph fastballs, but hey, I’m not complaining. That bomb turned a 5-4 deficit into an 8-4 lead. Mark Teixeira chipped in a solo homer, Curtis Granderson a two-run double, and Andruw Jones a run-scoring single. Every starter had a hit except for Brett Gardner. No nonsense day for the offense, that’s for sure.
  • Things got a little sticky for Mariano Rivera in the ninth, when he gave up two hits and hit a batter (one run), but he stranded the tying and go-ahead runs at third and second, respectively, by striking out J.J. Hardy on a cutter away. Mo’s 38th save of the season is number 597 of his career, so he’s still got a decent shot to tie (or top) Trevor Hoffman’s record of 601 career saves before the season ends.
  • Brett Lawrie and the Blue Jays walked off against the Red Sox, so the lead in the AL East increased to 2.5 games and three in the loss column. The Rays beat the Rangers thanks to yet another Jamie Shields complete game, so the lead on the wildcard spot remained at 9.5. The magic number to clinch a postseason berth dropped to just 14. MLB.com has the box score and video highlights for those that missed Montero’s homers. FanGraphs has some other stuff, and ESPN offers the updated standings.

The Yankees have won five straight (undefeated in The Montero Era!) and will look to extend it to six against the Orioles on Tuesday evening. Phil Hughes will give it a go against Tommy Hunter, and RAB Tickets can help get you in the door if you want to attend.

Nothing but wins on the last day of the season

Triple-A Scranton (5-1 win over Buffalo) they finished the year at 73-69 and in third place in the International League North division
Kevin Russo, LF: 1 for 4, 1 R
Ramiro Pena, SS: 2 for 4, 1 R – gotta figure he’ll be in the Bronx tomorrow
Austin Romine, C: 1 for 3, 1 R – good to see him get his feet wet in AAA at the end of the season
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K – finishes the year with a franchise record 32 homers, also more homers than walks (30) … 83 big leaguers have done the more HR than BB thing over the last 50 years
Jordan Parraz, RF: 3 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI
Greg Golson, CF: 1 for 4, 1 K – he’s on his way to New York
P.J. Pilittere, DH: 0 for 3, 1 K – might be his last game ever as he begins the inevitable transition to coaching
Doug Bernier, SS: 0 for 3, 1 E (throwing)
D.J. Mitchell, RHP: 8 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 1 WP, 11-4 GB/FB – 66 of 109 pitches were strikes (60.6%) … probably his best start of the year, on the last day of the season of the course
Logan Kensing, RHP: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2-0 GB/FB – 14 of 24 pitches were strikes (58.3%)

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Open Thread: Labor Day

Mitre with the photobomb. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

On the day in which we celebrate America’s workforce, the pitchers sure labored in this afternoon’s game. Twenty-one runs and 29 hits between the two teams combined, including Jesus Montero‘s first two career homers and Robinson Cano‘s third grand slam of the season. Scott Proctor even made his glorious return to pinstripes. Fun game to watch on the unofficial end of summer.

Anyway, here’s your open thread for the night. The Mets are playing the Marlins, and MLB Network will carry a game as well (teams depend on where you live). Feel free to talk about whatever your heart desires here.

Golson, Noesi, Pena and Kontos heading to New York

The Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees finished up their season with a win today, and Donnie Collins reports that the quartet of Greg Golson, Hector Noesi, Ramiro Pena and George Kontos are heading to New York to join the big league team. We’ve seen Golson, Pena and Noesi before, but Kontos will be the new face. The righty reliever struck out 91 and unintentionally walked just 25 in 89.1 IP this year, his first full season in the bullpen following Tommy John surgery. Kontos would have been Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season, and the Yankees will have to make room for him on the 40-man roster.

Betances may soon join Yankees

Via Jack Curry, there’s a chance that Dellin Betances may soon join the Yankees as a September call-up. Brian Cashman told Curry that he wanted to discuss it with Joe Girardi before making the move. Just last week we heard that Betances and Manny Banuelos would not be called up, mostly due to fastball command.

Because he’s already on the 40-man roster, adding Betances to the roster would be a simple call-up without any other maneuvering required. He just pitched last night (5 IP and 101 pitches), so he wouldn’t be a available for a few days anyway. The Yankees called up Andrew Brackman under similar circumstances last year, but he did not pitch. If anything, we’d probably see Betances for an inning or two of mop-up work, nothing too crazy. It would be fun to see him, though.

Game 139: Off their feet

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

You know what the Yankees could use today? A nice big blowout. Big enough so that Freddy Garcia could go five and fly while some September call-ups mop up the last four innings. Big enough that both Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira can get off their banged up knees for a few innings.  Big enough to get everyone off their feet. You know I mean, that kind of game. Here’s the starting nine…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Andruw Jones, RF
Russell Martin, C
Jesus Montero, DH
Brett Gardner, LF

Freddy Garcia, SP

It’s not raining in New York, but it looks like it might start at any minute. Apparently there’s enough of a window to get the game in, so hope for the best. They don’t need another doubleheader. Both YES and MLB Network will carry the game. Enjoy.