Although it often seems otherwise, Mariano Rivera is not perfect. During his career, the future Hall of Famer has been tagged with 65 blown saves and 57 losses, so there are plenty of examples available to refute the notion of his infallibility. And yet, when he doesn’t come through, it still seems like a fluke. Such was the case on two occasions this past week.
On Sunday night, Rivera suffered his fifth blown save of the season against the Red Sox, the team against which he has by far the most. Considering Boston’s power-packed lineup, it’s easy to see how even the great Rivera might slip up, but what made Sunday’s blown save most frustrating was the chief antagonist: light-hitting Marco Scutaro.
Walk Off Home Runs Against Mariano Rivera
|7/14/02||Indians||Bill Selby||ahead 7-6||b9||123||2||6 (2-2)|
|7/24/04||Red Sox||Bill Mueller||ahead 10-9||b9||1–||1||5 (3-1)|
|7/20/06||Blue Jays||Vernon Wells||tied 4-4||b11||—||1||2 (1-0)|
|4/15/07||Athletics||Marco Scutaro||ahead 4-2||b9||12-||2||3 (0-2)|
|9/18/09||Mariners||Ichiro Suzuki||ahead 2-1||b9||-2-||2||1 (0-0)|
Then again, maybe Scutaro’s lead off double, which led to the blown save, shouldn’t have come as that much of a surprise? After all, the journeyman infielder owns one of only five walk off homeruns surrendered by Rivera. What’s more, Scutaro’s double on Sunday was his second against Rivera, giving him three extra base hits against the great closer in only 18 plate appearances.
Batters with at Least Three Extra Base Hits vs. Mariano Rivera
How significant is Scutaro’s relative success against Rivera? Over the course of his career, Rivera has faced 920 different batters, and of that total, only eight have recorded at least three extra base hits. For further perspective, 469 hitters, or 51%, failed to even record one hit, including teammate Dustin Pedroia, who has gone 0-10 in 13 plate appearances against Rivera. Finally, Scutaro’s .896 OPS against Rivera ranks 28th among the 156 hitters with at least 10 plate appearances versus the future Hall of Famer.
Most PAs Without a Hit vs. Mariano Rivera
After failing to close out a win in Fenway, Rivera’s next game ended in a loss to the Los Angeles Angels. This time, the culprit was Bobby Abreu and the damage was a rare home run, which broke a 4-4 tie. Since 1995, Rivera’s HR rate of 0.44 per nine innings is the lowest of any reliever with at least 275 innings, so when he falters because of the long ball, it’s even more startling. However, the gopher ball surrendered to Bobby Abreu was even more remarkable because the struggling DH entered the game with only four home runs. When you consider that Abreu had already hit his fifth earlier in the game, the chances of him going deep again, against Rivera no less, had to be slim, but when the Yankees’ closer gives it up, it often feels like a long shot coming through.
Lowest HR/9 Rates, Relievers Since 1995 (min. 275 IP)
Since he first emerged as a dominant force in the 1995 ALDS against the Mariners, Mariano Rivera’s successes have far surpassed his failures, which, ironically, is why the latter seem to better define his greatness. When Rivera blows a game, it inspires shock. When he blows two-in-a-row, it induces panic…in everyone but Rivera himself. Perhaps that’s why Mariano has had only one stretch of three straight games with either a blown save or loss (August 1997)? So, let the Chicken Littles have their say. You can’t blame them for thinking the sky is falling. In fact, it’s a testament to the greatest closer of all time.