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Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Updated: September 14, 8:18 AM ET
Mariano Rivera gets 600th save

By Andrew Marchand
ESPNNewYork.com

SEATTLE -- New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera has become the second reliever in Major League Baseball history to join the 600-save club.

Rivera picked up the save in the Yankees' 3-2 win over the Mariners. His next save will tie him with Trevor Hoffman for the all-time save lead.

"It's a great number," Rivera said, sounding a bit choked up by all the adulation. "I'm not a guy who looks for things like that."

With 18,306 on hand at Safeco Field on Tuesday night, Rivera entered not to his traditional "Enter Sandman," but to ACDC's "Shook Me All Night Long." With a large contingent of Yankees fans cheering him on, he took the mound as the clock approached 1 a.m. in the East.

To start the inning, Rivera sandwiched strikeouts of Wily Mo Pena and Kyle Seager around an Ichiro Suzuki single. Rivera ended the game when Ichiro was gunned down at second by Russell Martin. Rivera's teammates, who were on the top step of the dugout, met Rivera on the mound and congratulated him in a bigger than normal, but not raucous, celebration

"It's a great, great moment," Rivera said. "Definitely, they are part of my family because we spend so much time together. To see them on the top step rooting, it's priceless."

Jeter, who put the tag on Suzuki, smiled as he brought the souvenir ball to Rivera.

"We've been close for a long time and I know how important it is for him to come in and do his job," Jeter said. "He takes a lot of pride in it. He's a prideful guy."

In a season in which Jeter already reached one of baseball's grandest milestones with his 3,000th hit, Rivera also has added to his Yankees legacy. Next up is No. 601, which could come Wednesday night in the series finale at Seattle.

But even Rivera acknowledged the big one will be No. 602, when he passes Hoffman to become the most prolific closer in major league history. That leaves little time to savor No. 600, or 601.

"I don't know if we'll ever see it again. That's how much of an accomplishment this is that he and Trevor Hoffman have done. Simply remarkable," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "This is a guy who I believe is the best closer that's ever been in the game and I've had the fortune of catching him, coaching him and managing him and it's a treat."

Rivera has racked up all those saves -- plus 42 more in the postseason -- primarily on the strength of one dominant pitch: a sizzling cut fastball. And he's done it in pressure-packed situations with the Yankees always in contention. Indeed, he's been the back-end backbone of this team for 15 years.

"Just to think, about every game Mariano has ever pitched has been a meaningful game," Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez said. "Every one of those saves meant something."

While Girardi wondered why there has not been more made of Rivera's accomplishment, Rivera said that he wasn't losing any sleep over reaching the milestone. Prior to Tuesday's game, he said his preparation was "normal." He does plan on having his wife and kids travel to Toronto this week in anticipation of possibly breaking the record.

The Yankees have one more game in Seattle before an off day Thursday. Rivera has reached the mark because of his consistent ability to stay healthy and be effective. In his 15 seasons as the Yankees' closer, he has nine years with 40 or more saves. This season he has 41. His first two years as a Yankee, he was the setup man, including in 1996 when he was the bridge to John Wetteland in the Yankees' championship run. Rivera's pitching coach that year was Mel Stottlemyre.

"Six-hundred saves?" the retired Stottlemyre said in the Yankees' dugout before the game. "My God, it is tremendous. He has done it so professionally and so steadily, year after year."

Rivera has No. 600. Two more and he will have the all-time record.

Andrew Marchand covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.