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Wednesday, May 29, 2013
The great Mariano Rivera blows a save?


When 29 other closers blow a save, we file it under Stuff Happens.

When Mariano Rivera blows a save, it's An Event. Still. All these years and all these saves later.

So what happened at Citi Field on Tuesday, when the Greatest Closer Who Ever Lived blew a save in which he faced three hitters and retired none of them? Let's get to the bottom of this:

• The Elias Sports Bureau tells us this was the first time in Rivera's career he'd ever blown a save without retiring a hitter. Think about that. It took him only 700 save opportunities! You can make that 747 if you count the postseason, because it never happened there, either.

• Just to put that in perspective, another Yankees closer from a different era, Sparky Lyle, rolled up 12 blown saves in which he forgot to get an out. Twelve. (And I didn't even count the two years he pitched before the invention of the modern save rule.) And Jesse Orosco had 11 blown saves in his career in which he didn't retire a hitter. But Mariano Rivera? He had zero -- until Tuesday night.

Mariano Rivera
Before blowing the save Tuesday against the Mets at Citi Field, Mariano Rivera threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

• So who's your current leader in the clubhouse now that Mariano is off that list? Jonathan Papelbon is up to 300 career save opportunities without a zero-out blown save -- 309 if you count October.

• But what made this night especially bizarre was that Rivera threw out the ceremonial first pitch, then gave it up on his last pitch. The guy who caught that first pitch was one-time Mets closer John Franco. For the record, he had four blown saves in which he didn't get anyone out.

• The Great Mariano had saved 18 games in a row before that blown save. Amazingly, that's the ninth streak in his career in which he converted at least 18 saves in a row. (And he had two other streaks of 17.) That'll work.

• Of Rivera's last 30 save opportunities against NL teams, he has blown only two -- both against the Mets, at Citi Field, with those two coming in his last two appearances there. And here's a factoid that will blow your mind:

As loyal reader Eric Orns reports, the Mets have now had seven consecutive hitters reach base when Rivera was on the mound over those two games -- although one of them (on July 3, 2011) wouldn't have been there without a Ramiro Pena error. Don't believe it? Here they come, the last seven Mets to face Rivera in those two appearances:

July 3, 2011:
Jason Bay -- walk
Lucas Duda -- single
Ronny Paulino -- RBI single
Ruben Tejada -- reached on Pena error

Tuesday:
Daniel Murphy -- double
David Wright -- RBI single
Lucas Duda -- RBI single

Amazin'.

Now remember, a guy reaching on an error doesn't count under the category of Mariano Rivera "allowing a runner to reach base." Only hits, walks and hit-by-pitches fall under that heading. Nevertheless, the most consecutive hitters who wound up on base against him, under any circumstances, when he's faced any other team? That would be just four. So seven in a row? Insanity!

Useless Information Dept.

In other news …

• The most top-secret great shortstop in baseball, the Brewers' Jean Segura, got six hits in a game Tuesday -- and his team still lost. He was the fourth player ever to get six hits in an interleague game, joining Chone Figgins, Nomar Garciaparra and Cal Ripken Jr. But how 'bout this:

Two of those four men (Segura and Garciaparra) did it in a game their team lost. But in non-interleague action, no National League hitter has gotten six hits in a game his team lost since Sept. 13, 1982, when San Diego's Joe Lefebvre did it in a loss to the Dodgers.

• Another Jean Segura oddity: Every one of those six hits was a single. Only 15 other players in the past 98 seasons have had a six-hit game in which all half-dozen of the hits were singles. And maybe those six-single games are overrated. Of the 10 men who have had a game like Segura's in the past 60 years, only four of them did it in a game their team won.

• You probably know that Segura was traded last July for Zack Greinke. You might not know that Segura could have a tough time claiming he's the best hitter in that trade. That's because Greinke is hitting .500 this year -- 10 at-bats, five hits. Top that!

• How many three-ball counts did Cliff Lee run in his eight innings against the Red Sox on Tuesday? That would be none. There have been a total of 1,536 games started by all the pitchers in the big leagues so far this season. There have been only two other games in which any starter worked eight innings or more and ran zero three-ball counts, according to Elias: Brandon McCarthy (against the Phillies) on May 12, and Hisashi Iwakuma (against the Rangers) -- just two days before Lee. Last pitcher to do it against those count-grinding Red Sox: David Price last Sept. 25.

Rick Porcello became the fourth Tigers starter to roll up a double-figure strikeout game this season -- and it isn't even June yet. So when was the last time the Tigers have had that happen? Never, of course. But in case you hadn't noticed, they're not even the first staff to do that this year -- because the Cardinals beat them to it.

• Here's a little better perspective, though: This is the second straight season in which two different rotations have pulled this off before the end of May. (The Angels and Phillies did it before June last year.) But before that, according to Elias, only one team had done it in the previous 26 seasons combined. That team? You've heard of it. It was the 1986 Mets, with Dwight Gooden, Sid Fernandez, Ron Darling and Bobby Ojeda doing the double-digit whiffing.

• A fun tidbit from the Boston Globe's Pete Abraham: David Ortiz went 1,859 games over parts of 17 years without stealing third base. Then, naturally, he stole third twice in five games last week. Heck, of course he did.

• The Royals have now lost seven games in a row. As the great Rany Jazayerli reports, they've now had a losing streak that lasted at least six games in 10 seasons in a row -- before they flipped the calendar to June. They probably don't want to know that both the Giants and Rangers have now gone more than 400 games without having any six-game losing streaks.

• And one last nugget I've been meaning to pass along: In their May 20 loss to the Indians, the Mariners did something incredible: They hit game-tying or go-ahead homers in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings -- and still lost.

Only one other team in history has ever done that, according to the Sultan of Swat Stats, SABR home run historian David Vincent. The Tigers did it at Tampa Bay, on Aug. 3, 2008:

Gary Sheffield game-tier in the eighth, Curtis Granderson game-tier in the ninth, Miguel Cabrera go-ahead homer in the 10th -- all of which was undone by a Fernando Rodney blown save in the bottom of the 10th. Oops!