Chicago White Sox: Mariano Rivera
CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox pulled off the three-game sweep of the New York Yankees, rallying for a 6-5 victory in 12 innings.
How it happened: First the White Sox crashed Mariano Rivera’s farewell party on the South Side as a pair of two-out hits in the bottom of the ninth inning gave the Hall of Fame-bound closer a blown save. It was Rivera’s third blown save this year and the 77th of his career. Gordon Beckham doubled with two outs in the ninth and Adam Dunn tied it on a pinch-hit RBI single. After the Yankees took the lead in the 12th on a home run from Robinson Cano, Alejandro De Aza won it with a two-out, two-run triple off reliever Adam Warren. Beckham had two RBIs in the game, while Paul Konerko had an RBI double. The White Sox trailed 4-0 after four innings. Hector Santiago had a rocky start for the White Sox, giving up four runs in 5 2/3 innings.
What it means: In his last outing at U.S. Cellular Field, Rivera failed to do what he does best. Entering the game to a standing ovation and asked to protect a one-run lead, Rivera got fly outs from Alex Rios and Paul Konerko before Beckham and Dunn got their back-to-back hits. His career save total at U.S. Cellular Field will remain at 21. He has 41 saves in his career against the White Sox. Rivera was recognized Tuesday with a framed box score of his first outing at U.S. Cellular Field in 1995 and a photo collage from when the Yankees played in Chicago in the first game after play was suspended because of 9/11. The White Sox also donated $4,200 to the Jackie Robinson Foundation in Rivera’s name.
Outside the box: Santiago, a native of Newark, N.J., had been on a roll until facing the Yankees. He gave up four runs on seven hits and two walks in his 5 2/3 innings of work. It was the first time he had given up more than three earned runs in an outing since June 28 against the Cleveland Indians. He entered with a 2.75 ERA over his last six starts.
Off beat: It took a century and needed a pair of improbable comebacks to do it, but the White Sox have finally swept the Yankees in consecutive series of at least three games. The last time it happened was in 1913 when the White Sox swept a four-game series after sweeping a three-game set in 1912. The White Sox swept the Yankees at home in August of last season and did it again this week. It was the White Sox’s first three-game sweep since May 24-26 when they turned the trick against the Miami Marlins.
Up next: After a day off Thursday, the White Sox will return to action Friday with a day-night doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins. John Danks (2-9, 4.52 ERA) will start in the 1:10 p.m. CT opener, while Charlie Leesman (0-0, 0.00) will make his major league debut in the 7:10 p.m. second game.
When the White Sox right-hander closed out the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday for his 26th save he ran his streak to 25 consecutive scoreless outings on the road to start the season. That broke a tie with Rivera for the best ever.
Going back to last season, Santos has delivered 30 consecutive scoreless outings on the road.
A White Sox official waited until after the game to inform Santos about the accomplishment.
“I didn’t know there was a record,” Santos confessed. “I knew I hadn’t given up a run at all on the road. But it’s one of those things that just kind of happened. It just so happens I was pitching pretty good and it just so happened on the road.”
What might have gotten Santos to the record was advice he received from Rivera himself. Like he was at high-school homecoming and figuring out a way to ask the prettiest girl in school to dance, Santos wanted to pick Rivera’s brain when the team was in New York earlier this year but didn’t know how to break the ice.
On the last day of the series Santos finally approached his hero and the two chatted in the outfield during batting practice for over a half hour.
Most important among the questions Santos asked that day was how to deal with the pressure of the late innings with the game on the line. For the most part this year, Santos has looked like a cool customer with the game on the line.
“I’m lucky and fortunate it’s coming together,” Santos said. “I’m throwing strikes, which is my main goal and I can live with what happens if I’m throwing strikes.”
The White Sox’s new closer, albeit unofficially, came to New York with the hope of picking Rivera’s brain. He had never met the future Hall of Famer but had a couple of ideas on how to get a conversation started, including going to Freddy Garcia, now with the Yankees, to facilitate a meeting.
Santos decided to take matters into his own hands Wednesday when he approached Rivera while the Yankees were taking batting practice.
“I said, ‘Hey, if you don’t mind, I’d love to ask you a few questions?’” Santos said. “At first I was thinking, ‘Man, this is Mariano Rivera.’ He started off with a question to me which kind of threw me off. My question was, ‘Hey, what’s your approach when you go out there?’ He goes, ‘Well, let me ask you a question. When you’re heading out to the mound from the bullpen, what are you thinking about?’”
Santos didn’t want to reveal too much, but he did say that Rivera approved of his answer. They talked about preparation, pitching without your best stuff and how to handle adversity.
Rivera learned about Santos’ background as an infielder turned pitcher in 2009 through White Sox bullpen coach Juan Nieves, who was a former minor-league coach in the Yankees organization.
“He told me that it was impressive to, I guess, be able to convert so quickly and have somewhat success,” Santos said. “I’ll tell you what, when I was done talking to him I literally went over that conversation in my head 100 times just so I wouldn’t forget it.”
Not that Santos wanted the Yankees to be leading in the ninth inning Wednesday, but getting a chance to see Rivera close out a game immediately after learning some of his secrets helped to visualize the advice.
“He has the mindset that I’m going to give you what I’ve learned over these 20 years and I hope you have a successful career as I’ve had,” Santos said. “That’s actually refreshing and nice to have the opportunity to do that.”
Major League Baseball has an anti-fraternization rule, of course, so that fans aren’t given the impression that the competitive nature of the game is being compromised, but Santos felt that the chance to talk to Rivera was worth the risk of a slap on the hand. Besides, the gates to the ballpark weren’t even open when their conversation began.
“My whole thing is: What do I have to lose? If I ask him if I can get advice and he says no, I’m right back to where I am,” Santos said. “But from what I heard he was really a good guy and that confirmed it. I just hope that if I have half the career he has and had and if somebody else ask me questions I would more than willing to share whatever I learned and pass it on.”