Mariano Rivera: He’s human

mariano 91809.jpgThere are few things in sports today as automatic as seeing Mariano Rivera holding a baseball in the bottom of the ninth inning, with two outs and nobody on base. Thanks for coming, arrive home safely. Right?

Wrong. Mike Sweeney launched a double that one-hopped the wall in right-center field, eluding the racing grasp of Brett Gardner, and Ichiro Suzuki slugged a Rivera cutter into the right field seats to celebrate his second walk-off hit in as many games. Rivera threw two pitches, both were hit very hard, and the Yankees lost.

“I wish I could bring it back and make my pitches, but it’s done,” Rivera said. “I just have to move forward.”

That was typical Mo cool, looking at it in the matter-of-fact viewpoint that can only be obtained by having been there and done it in the biggest spots baseball can present. But Rivera was very forthcoming when asked if this had been the best run of his life, a career-high string of 36 consecutive save opportunities converted until the Mariners celebrated last night.

“I wouldn’t say that,” Rivera said. “I know the numbers maybe show that,
but it would be impossible for me to say that. I’m throwing whatever
I’m throwing right now. Before, I used to throw harder. It’s totally
different. Am I more mature? Yes. But not strong like back then,
meaning velocity.”

Still, Rivera had allowed one run in his last 33 innings of work. That’s nothing to sniff at.

“That’s a pretty incredible feat,” Johnny Damon said. “Hopefully this means he’s not going to give up another run until March.”

Our buddy Steve Lombardi of WasWatching.com chips in with the following stat — Ichiro joins Marco Scutaro, Bill Mueller, and Bill Selby as the only batters to
hit a regular season, bottom of the 9th inning, walk-off homerun off
against Rivera.

Vernon Wells also hit a walk-off homer against Rivera – but it was
in the 11th inning of a tie game. Suzuki, Scutaro, Mueller and Selby
all did it in the ninth, with their team trailing. Suzuki, Scutaro, and Selby all did it after two-outs. Mueller did it after one out. Links to the games can be found here

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