Closing it out while fighting an injury

As the Stadium emptied out and the Yanks continued to celebrate into the wee hours of the morning, Mariano Rivera stopped by the ESPN stage to chat with Peter Gammons, Steve Berman and Dave Winfield about winning the World Series. Rivera is just three and a half weeks shy of his 40th birthday, and his face expressed elation at capturing a fifth ring.

He started out the interview by talking about the long wait, putting the ghosts of 2001 to bed and Andy Pettitte. Laughing at how Pettitte performed on three days’ rest, Rivera simply said with a smile, “That old goat is wonderful.”

I know Rivera won’t complain about his workload, but he had a very long season this year. Although his regular season innings total of 66.1 was a seven-year low, his 16 postseason innings are the most he has thrown since 2003. He was clearly feeling the effects of making 78 appearances this year. “I’m beat up, man,” he said to the ESPN crew.

And then he let slip a secret. “My side was killing me. I don’t know how I finished,” Rivera said. Yankee fans had a feeling something was wrong with Rivera during Game 4 when FOX caught him holding a heating pack to his right side, and last night, he confirmed what he called a “rib injury.”

Rivera labored last night. He needed 41 pitches to get five outs after using just 13 to get the previous five outs. His velocity seemed to be a tick lower than usual, and his control wasn’t as sharp as it generally is. When the game, the season, the World Series ended, though, Rivera was on the mound, and he could rest his rib. “We did not want to say about it,” he said. “Thank God we finished that today because I don’t think I could go another day with that.”

After the game, though, Rivera said he could keep going. He wants to pitch for another five years and might just be serious about it. “I’m serious,” he said to Chad Jennings. “I hope the organization does whatever it takes to bring me back.”

In today’s Times, Jack Curry writes glowingly of Rivera, and it’s no secret that Mariano is my favorite player. In fact, for every single playoff game this season, I wore my Rivera 42 2008 All Star Game jersey. Now, we hear he is injured, and he closed out the World Series while hurt. Yet, it doesn’t show. He takes the ball; he throws that cutter; he gets his outs. The legend and the greatness of Mo just continues to grow, and five years after he retires, I’ll be in Cooperstown with him, watching a great player earn a spot in the Hall of Fame.

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Knowing when to be a gracious runner-up

Jimmy Rollins is not known for keeping his mouth in check. He has spent the past few seasons antagonizing Mets fans in Spring Training by proclaiming the Phillies better than the Mets and the team to beat in the NL East. With the Mets’ injury-inspired fade this year, Rollins was right, and he didn’t let discretion get the better part of him for the World Series.

In fact, prior to the Series, Rollins let his mouth do the talking again. Considering how he hit this Fall Classic, his mouth, in fact, was the only thing doing much talking. “Of course we’re going to win,” Rollins said before the Series started. “If we’re nice, we’ll let it go six. But I’m thinking five, close it out at home.”

Three games into it, and Rollins’ prediction couldn’t come true. After losing Game 1, the Yanks had beaten the Phillies in three straight, and in Rollins’ original clincher, the Phillies had to fight to force Game 6. After the Yankees won last night, Rollins was the only member of the team who managed to make their World Series loss about the Phillies.

“They were the better team this series,” Rollins said after the game. “Do I think we’re the better team? I really do. They just executed. I think we weren’t playing bad, but they were playing that much better. They got the hits, we didn’t. It’s that simple.”

Other Phillies acknowledged the Yankees’ run to a title. “We got beat,” Ryan Howard said. “They were the better team. They outplayed us. You have to tip your hat to them.”

Manager Charlie Manuel praised the Yanks as well. “We just didn’t play as good as we can, but at the same time, we also played a real good team who did a good job, and they’ve had a great season,” he said. “They definitely deserved to win.”

Since Game 2 of the ALDS, when David Robertson pitched out of a bases loaded, no out situation without allowing the run, the Yankees had that championship feel to them. They beat back a pesky Angels’ team and beat a very good Phillies team. After seven months and 114 wins, the Yankees are on top.

I can understand Rollins’ frustration. The Phillies out-hit the Yanks in this World Series, thanks to Chase Utley and Jayson Werth, but the rest of the team didn’t really show up. Rollins, the lead-off hitter, scored just three runs, and Ryan Howard struck out 13 times. His sixth-inning home run last night came too late to save the Phillies.

But Rollins, one of the game’s better ambassadors, should know when to tip his cap to the other team. I understand team pride; I understand riling up the fan base. But I also understand that the Yankees, a better team than the Phillies, won. After the beanings this week, the bad blood will flow between the Yankees and the Phillies in Spring Training. Maybe Jimmy Rollins should save the trash talking for then.

A nice day for a parade

Tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m., the Yankees and New York City will celebrate the team’s long-awaited 27th World Series championship. The parade and subsequent ceremony will be a two-hour affair, starting at 11 a.m. at Broadway and Battery Place. The team will ride through the Canyon of Heroes to City Hall where Mayor Michael Bloomberg will award the Yankees keys to the city.

While fans can line the streets of Broadway for a chance to see the Yanks, the City is opening up the City Hall plaza to a limited number of fans. Beginning at 2 p.m. today, New Yorkers can register here for a chance to win tickets to the ceremony. (Ed. Note: Apparently, NYC.gov is having some problems with the registration form, and everyone is getting a note telling them their form has already been uploaded. We’ll update this when the problems are fixed.)

As the Yankees look forward to their moment in the sun, the City will be enjoying its 178th Ticker Tape parade. The most recent walk up the Canyon of Heroes came in February 2008 shortly after Giants ensured that the Patriots did not go 19-0. For Yankee fans, who haven’t had a parade in nine years, this one will feel good. “I can’t wait,” Mariano Rivera said. “It’s satisfaction. The city of New York deserves it.”

For RAB readers looking to meet up tomorrow, we’ll organize something in the comments and put it on site later tonight. The floor is open to suggestions. For those of you stuck at work tomorrow morning, the parade will be streamed live for free via MLB.com.

27

Pettitte strong through 5.2 as Matsui wins MVP

On a 3-2 pitch to Shane Victorino, Joe Buck kept the theatrics to a minimum. “To the second baseman, Cano,” he said. “The Yankees are back on top. World Champions for the 27th time.”

At Blondie’s on the Upper West Side, where Chris Meloni had joined us a few innings into the game, we were less composed. As Victorino’s ground ball bounced toward Robinson Cano, we leaped, we high-fived and we hugged as Cano fielded and flipped to Mark Teixeira for the 27th out of the New York Yankees’ 27th World Championship.

For Yankee fans, it was, in Yankee years, a long time coming. The Yanks last won the World Series in 2000 when Bill Clinton was the president, when Michael Bloomberg was just some rich guy, when the St. Louis Rams were the Super Bowl Champions, when Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia were both in the minors, when Derek Jeter was 26 years old.

From the second inning on, this was the Yanks’ game. More specifically, it was Hideki Matsui‘s. After a quick first inning from the Yanks and two strong innings from Andy Pettitte, A-Rod walked, and Matsui came to the plate. The soon-to-be free agent worked the count full against Pedro Martinez and then launched a shot into the right field seats for his third home run of the World Series. The Yanks had a 2-0 lead, and they wouldn’t look back.

A Carlos Ruiz triple with one out and a Jimmy Rollins sac fly would cut the Yanks’ lead to one, but the Yanks would go back at it. After a Derek Jeter single, a Johnny Damon walk and a Mark Teixeira hit-by-pitch would load the bases, Alex Rodriguez struck out looking on a pitch in the left-handed batter’s box. Then, Matsui would again be the hero. He drove a two-run single into center field, and the Yanks had their 4-1 lead.

Two innings later, with Chad Durbin in for Pedro Martinez, the Yanks struck again. Mark Teixeira singled home Derek Jeter, and against lefty J.A. Happ, Matsui drove in both Teixeira and A-Rod. It was 7-1 Yanks, and Hideki had six RBis.

In the sixth, Pettite ran into a spot of trouble. He walked Chase Utley — one of five base on balls for the evening — and Ryan Howard broke out of his World Series slump for one at bat to power the ball just over Jerry Hairston into the left field seats. The Phillies had cut the Yanks’ lead to 7-3, but that would be all the baseball gods wrote for the scoring.

Joba Chamberlain replaced Andy Pettitte with two outs in the 6th and got Pedro Feliz to ground out. Joba would give up two base runners in the 7th but got two outs. With two on and two out in the 7th, Damaso Marte got the ball and was flat-out masterful. He struck out Chase Utley on a check swing to end the inning. In the 8th, Marte struck out Ryan Howard for Howard’s World Series record setting K, and it became Mariano time.

Last night, Mariano needed to get five outs with a four-run lead. He had to nail down out 23, 24, 25, 26 and 27, and although we waited for him to do so in 2001, eight years later, he did. Jayson Werth struck out for out 23, and although Raul Ibañez doubled, Pedro Feliz fouled out to Jorge for 24.

In the 9th, we stood up and cheered. Matt Stairs lined out to Derek for out 25. Carlos Ruiz, that pain in the neck all series, walked, and Jimmy Rollins — the same Jimmy Rollins who predicted a five-game Phillies win — flew out to Nick Swisher for number 26. Victorino grounded out, and the Yankees were World Series champions once again.

For the old guard, for Jorge and Derek and Andy and Mariano, this was ring number five. Pettitte completed his superfecta with a win in the AL East clincher, the ALDS clincher, the ALCS clincher and the World Series clincher. Mariano ended another title, and Derek got a hit in his final at-bat. Jorge called a great game, coaxing 5.2 innings out of Pettitte. The Yankees were on top once again.

The parade is tomorrow at 11 a.m., and for now, we’ll bask in that glow of World Series Championship Number 27. How sweet it is.