There’s nothing left really to say about his greatness. We all know the story. He throws that cutter precisely where he wants, it turns left just as it gets to the plate, and there has never been anyone quite like him.
Still, watching him break four bats on Wednesday night — I’m pretty sure he broke Denard Span’s bat when getting the last out of the eighth, then broke Orlando Hudson’s bat, Joe Mauer’s bat and Jim Thome’s bat in the ninth — was another awe-inspiring reminder. He clearly does not throw as hard as he once did. Teams have broken him down on video for more than a decade. We all KNOW exactly what he’s going to do. And still, major league hitters come up, they swing at his cutter, the ball breaks in two inches more than they expected, they break their bat. In Las Vegas, I’ve seen David Copperfield make a car appear out of thin air, and I’ve seen Lance Burton duel someone in a costume who turns out to be Lance Burton. I’m sure I could watch those tricks 50 times and never figure out how they are done. I’m sure I could watch those tricks 100 times and never figure out how they’re done.
But Mariano Rivera has pitched 1,150 innings in the big leagues. He has pitched another 135 or so postseason innings. He has faced almost 900 different big league hitters. And this same trick, precisely this same trick, works almost every time. The Twins may or may not be good enough to come back in this series. They will obviously need to beat up on the Yankees’ second-string starting pitchers, and try to hold their own against this relentless Yankees offense. What they do know is this: They ain’t going to win it in the ninth inning. Mariano Rivera turns 41 next month. He is aging just like the rest of us. But for one more year, it sure looks like nobody is going to beat the Yankees in the ninth inning.