Thursday, June 24, 2010
What were Mariano's best?
Let’s be honest. You knew THAT was going to happen, if you stuck around late enough to see Mariano Rivera’s latest, the bases-loaded no-out escape to cap a one-run, extra-inning comeback win in Arizona.
Baseball math will tell you that the home team wins anywhere from 70 to 75 percent of the time when it loads the bases with no outs, down a run in the bottom of the last inning
With Rivera on the mound, it felt to this observer, that the Diamondbacks chances of winning were ZERO.
It didn’t matter that Chris Young and Adam LaRoche were hitting over .500 this season with the bases loaded. They had no shot.
Neither did poor Mark Reynolds, now 0-for-his-last 21 in bases-loaded situations. He likely won’t forget this one, and neither will we. It ranks among Rivera’s best works.
But what else does that list include? We came up with a few.
July 4, 1995 at White Sox Rivera’s best start came in Chicago on our nation’s birthday. You may have heard John Kruk speak of this one before on “Baseball Tonight.” The White Sox were given a scouting report on a different Rivera, one who was a junkball pitcher.
Kruk realized that wasn’t the case after his first at-bat when he saw the 95 mile-per-hour fastball. Rivera finished eight innings of scoreless two-hit ball with 11 strikeouts.
October 4, 1995, ALDS Game 2 vs Mariners Rivera’s first postseason effort set the standard for what followed. In 3 1/3 innings of relief in a tie score, Rivera allowed no runs and whiffed five.
In the top of the 15th, he escaped a two-on, one-out scenario by striking out Doug Strange and getting Tino Martinez on a fly out. Three batters later, the Yankees were winners on Jim Leyritz’s walk-off home run.
October 16, 2003, Game 7 of ALCS vs Red Sox This one didn’t require any heavy-duty escape acts, but it’s viewed as Rivera’s signature performance. Over three innings and 48 pitches in the most pressure-packed situation possible, Rivera allowed no runs and two harmless hits.
After Aaron Boone hit his walk-off, pennant-winning home run, Rivera did the appropriate thing to celebrate. He ran out to the pitcher’s mound and kissed it.
July 5, 2008 vs Red Sox OK, this one didn’t start so impressive. Rivera, protecting a 2-0 lead in the ninth inning, allowed the first four batters to reach, and he hit two of them, including Kevin Youkilis, to force in a run and load the bases with nobody out.
Rivera rose to the challenge, just as he did on Wednesday. Coco Crisp struck out swinging on three pitches. Jason Varitek got up 2-0, but mustered only a popup to first base. Julio Lugo, the Red Sox last hope, went down meekly, striking out on a 2-2 pitch. Final score, Yankees 2, Red Sox 1.
What else belongs on this list? Join the conversation and add some others.
Mark Simon is a researcher for Baseball Tonight. You can follow him on Twitter or e-mail him at email@example.com.