It’s starting to hit me. That we won’t see Mo pitch again. Small pangs at random times, but it’s sinking in. His playing career is over.
Specially tailored for Bronx Banter, dig this awesomeness from our man Craig Robinson:
A Go Figure Sunday ended on the good foot for the home team. Here’s what you need to know: Alex Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano homered, Mariano gave up two dingers, blew his third save opportunity in a row (the first time that’s ever happened in his career), and Brett Gardner hit a game-ending shot into the middle deck of the right field seats.
Rodriguez’s home run led off the second inning. It was a long pop fly, really. He hit a high, outside fastball for a line drive single in his second at bat and didn’t see where the ball went so he stood there at the plate looking like a dope (remember he pulled the same was-that-a-foul-ball? move when he hit a homer once at Fenway Park).
Lil’ Sori hit a solo home run, the 2,000th hit of his career and while Andy Pettitte was mediocre again, the Yankee bullpen held things together–Shawn Kelly and Boone Logan were especially good. They had a 4-2 lead in eighth when David Robertson gave up a solo shot and then an infield hit. Rodriguez made a nice play moving to his right and threw to second to get the lead runner. Never mind that the ump botched the call.
Gardner did him one better when he tracked a deep fly ball by Torii Hunter, caught it, and slammed against the wall. He flipped the ball to Soriano who threw it to the infield and doubled off Austin Jackson, who stood on second base confused as to what happened (he must have seen Gardner flip the ball and assumed that he had not caught it).
A relief, then, to have Miguel Cabrera lead off the ninth. Against Mo, again.
And Mariano had two strikes on him. But then made a lousy pitch and as we know, Cabrera doesn’t miss those. Another homer.
One out later…
Mo threw another horseshit pitch, this one to Victor Martinez who launched it deep into the seats in right.
So another save blown. And Michael Kay almost hyperventilated telling us that it’d never happened before, three in a row.
But Jose Veras, ah, Jose Veras, pitched for the Tigers in the bottom of the inning. Hunter made a nice catch to rob Eduardo Nunez of an extra base hit, Vernon Wells got out in front of a breaking ball and hit a long foul before striking out, but then Gardner hit the second pitch he saw into the second deck.
Gatorade bath and all those hurt feelings made better.
Final Score: Yanks 5, Tigers 4.
Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford uses just any old bat when he faces Mariano Rivera. The more rickety and age-worn, the better.
He knows there’s a good chance his bat — and his at-bat — will be doomed by what many consider the most devastating pitch in baseball.
Rivera’s cut fastball, or cutter, is often the only pitch hitters see when facing the New York Yankees closer. It’s a pitch that he throws almost exclusively, its late movement as it approaches the plate shattering bats and hitters’ hearts alike.
Why waste good wood on that?
“I don’t use the same bat that I’ve been playing good with because chances are real high” it’s going to get broken, Crawford said with a chuckle. “So I just take an old, cheap bat that I don’t really care about and try to stay as short as possible” with the swing.
One of Mel Brooks’ 2001 Year Old Man bits had him saying that we make fun old an old guy who is bent over and spitting and pretty soon we’re bent over and spitting. I thought of this tonight when the Yanks lost in 18 innings to the A’s, 3-2, because just last weekend the Mets lost in 20 innings. I didn’t take pleasure in the Mets’ misery, necessarily, I was just relieved it wasn’t happening to the Yanks.
The only relief I got from this game was that I didn’t see a pitch of it. I followed the early innings on Game Day, and hours later, followed it some more from my phone after Em and I finished dinner at a restaurant downtown.
“They’re still playing,” I said to the Wife. We got soaked on our way to the subway, which is when I took a picture of the Mariano Rivera New York Magazine cover at a newsstand (pictured above)
And they were still playing when the 1 train got to 125th Street. I put the phone away and didn’t bring it back out until we approached Dyckman. I asked Em if she had a good feeling. She hesitated to say anything and half-smiled which was her nice way of saying she didn’t have a good feeling.
Sure enough when I checked the phone again the Yanks had lost by a run. Upon further inspection it was worse–Mariano was on the hill when they lost. I cursed and gave a short, quick punch to the empty seat next to me.
“Cool it,” said the Wife.
Then came texts came from friends: “Brutal,” “Stab Me Now, Please,” “Way to Ruin the Day.”
Here’s what made it better. As my anger rose I looked up at the young, scraggily-looking couple sitting across from us. Mid-twenties, I guess. Chick has long blond hair and is reading an old paperback copy of a Herman Hesse book. Dude has long hair too. And he’s talking about the world, about politics, about Serbs and Turkey. He’s not just talking, he’s pontificating. Loudly. Finally he puts his head back and closes his eyes and says, “I’m not saying we should all get along but why can’t we all just hang out and enjoy the fruits of our society, man?”
I look up from my phone at him. The Wife squeezes my hand and whispers, “Easy.”
The train stops, we get out and laugh. That help take the sting out of a dispiriting loss for the Yanks.
Our man Mariano is Lisa Miller’s cover story this week in New York magazine:
Three months into his final season, Rivera’s hagiography is already being written. He has, for seventeen years, been the Yankees’ closer, the specialist who arrives in the ninth inning to protect a tight lead, and at this he is better than anyone else who has ever played the game. With 21 saves so far this season, he is pitching as well as he ever has, at an age when other ballplayers have long since withered, and after a long winter recovering from surgery for a torn ACL, an injury that cut short his 2012 season and has ruined many players much younger than he. His teammates speak of him as a giant, and they express gratitude for the privilege of merely being able to walk in the clubhouse where he has walked; atop the Yankees’ Olympus, populated by Ruth, DiMaggio, Gehrig, and Mantle, there’s already a name tag on Rivera’s throne. Sportswriters see him as a mystery, for while other closers have had brilliant seasons, even stretches of three or four, no one else has ever been as good for as long, not nearly. In trying to explain his unprecedented and ruthless two decades of dominance, they’ll cite Rivera’s natural athleticism and the simplicity of his mechanics and they’ll mention the advantages of having been tutored and coddled during his long career by the rich, paternalistic Yankees organization. Rivera acknowledges these things with gratitude—all true, he says. But in his view, his greatness has no earthly source.
“Everything I have and everything I became is because of the strength of the Lord, and through him I have accomplished everything,” he tells me as we sit shoulder to shoulder in the Yankees dugout on a temperate, breezy spring day last month. “Not because of my strength. Only by his love, his mercy, and his strength.” It is the first of several conversations about God I have with Rivera, over several weeks, and in each meeting I find myself struck by how eager he is to put baseball aside and speak openly, and at length, about his faith. Even as Rivera denies that his talent belongs to him, I steal a look at his magic right arm. “You don’t own your gifts like a pair of jeans,” he says.
By that reasoning, I venture, you might say that even the cutter doesn’t belong to you.
“It doesn’t,” he answers, nodding emphatically. “It doesn’t. He could give it to anyone he wants, but you know what? He put it in me. He put it in me, for me to use it. To bring glory, not to Mariano Rivera, but to the Lord.”
[Photo Credit: Martin Schoeller]
Once again, it was Mariano Rivera closing out a Yankee win. He allowed a bloop base hit to start the 9th inning, walked Raul Ibanez with two men out, but he struck out three batters and earned his 22nd save of the year. It never gets old. We’ve only got a few more months left of him. More than ever, it’s about the now, appreciating the moment.
Which brings us to another oldie but goodie because Andy Pettitte was great today. The Yanks won, 3-1, thanks to a couple of RBI base hits by Jayson Nix and a fine outing by Pettitte. It’s a memorable day for Andy as this was his 250th career victory. Not only that but the Yanks drafted his kid, Josh.
[Featured Image: AP; Silver Surfer by Moebius]
The news broke during the game and it came from ESPN’s Outside the Lines. Big names Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, along with 18 other big leaguers, will reportedly be suspended by MLB. For more, check out this quick analysis from Matthew Poullet. There will be much more in the days to come from apologists, moralists, conspiracy theorists, and amateur satirists. Buckle up.
Meanwhile, the ballgame. The Yanks held a tidy 4-0 lead going into the 7th inning. Dave Phelps was more like himself. Even when two men got on to start the 5th, he didn’t panic and got out of the inning without allowing a run. He doesn’t had overwhelming stuff but he’s a poor man’s Mike Mussina. There is an effective blandness about him, both in his performance and his appearance.
Mark Teixeira hit a 3-run homer, this one coming right-handed, Ichiro had an RBI base hit, and there was the 4-0 lead. But with two men on and two out in the 8th, Joba Chamberlain could not get the third strike against Drew Stubbs who poked a line drive over the wall in right. The Yanks loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the inning, Robinson Cano was at the plate, an ideal spot. But he got on top of a high fastball and pounded into the ground right at the second baseman who turned the 4-6-3 double play.
Tidy? The big hit? No Sir.
Instead David Robinson walked the lead off man in the 8th. Then Michael Brantley dropped the bat head down on a misplaced fastball and lined it to left for a base hit. That brought Nick Swisher to the plate and a feeling that the game was about the slip away for the Yanks. Swisher took a ball, swung over a curve ball and then nailed a fastball, hitting a low line drive. Ah, Fate. It was right at Jayson Nix, who flipped the ball to Reid Brignac, standing on second base to double off the runner.
And sometimes the sun shines out of a dog’s ass even at night in the Bronx. A harmless ground ball by Carlos Santana ended the inning and the threat.
In the 9th, Mariano Rivera entered the game and this is how it went down.
Mark Reynolds: Cutter, low and away, 1-0. Another cutter, lower and further away, 2-0. Fastball, high and outside, Reynolds waves at it. I feel the breeze all the way in Riverdale. Fastball outside corner, perfect, 2-2. Fastball right down the pike, moving in, Reynolds swings through it.
Giambo: Fastball paints the outside corner, 0-1. Cutter way inside, 1-1. Cutter, up, doesn’t get in enough, but it’s got enough movement for Giambi to just foul it back. Fastball, trying to paint the outside corner again, Giambi pokes it foul. He wasn’t surprised. Cutter, inside and up, almost hits Giambi in the hands, 2-2. Same pitch, high and out of the zone just not as far inside, and Giambi swings through it.
Mike Aviles: Fastball high, check swing. Bounces off Chris Stewart’s glove, 1-0. But Tony Randazzo the home plate ump says it’s a foul tip, so 0-1. Cutter low and away, 1-1. Cutter popped to right, Ichiro makes the catch. Ballgame. Aviles barks at Randazzo as he trots off the field as the Yankees shake hands.
It takes a cool hand. Little bit of luck never hurts.
Final Score: Yanks 4, Indians 3.
[Illustrations by Greg Guillemin]
Are there sports fans out there that believe good things will happen to their team? Oh, I’m sure there are, and if you root for the Yankees, you’ll find a healthy group of them and why not?
Not me. I plan for the worst and am pleased when things go well. So going into this week I figured Mariano Rivera was due to blow his first save of the season against either the Mets or the Red Sox. When the Mets had Rivera throw out the first pitch to last night’s game, well, my neurotic clock was set in motion.
Really, it’s all Brett Gardner’s fault (well, technically, it’s still Alex Rodriguez’s fault but that goes without saying). On Monday, he robbed Daniel Murphy of a home run and Murphy later got the game-winning hit. Gardner robbed Murphy again last night, not of a home run but at least a double, and so when Murphy dumped a double against Rivera to lead-off the bottom of the 9th, Yankee fans knew the improbable was about to happen. At least I did. I watched the rest of the game without sound.
Two base hits later the Mets had a 2-1 win spoiling a terrific performance by Hiroki Kuroda (seven scoreless innings).
Matt Harvey was great, too, allowing one run in 8 innings.
It was a good game with a great ending for the Mets. And it was a tough night of sleep for Yankee fans, at least this one.
The Yanks were ahead by a run in the bottom of the eighth when Brett Gardner lead off with a single. The game slowed down considerably as he plotted to steal second, which he eventually did, and made it. Then he stole third, too, but still, the Yanks couldn’t bring him home. The inning seemed to take forever–pitch-outs, visits to the mound, failed bunts–and all the planning and counter-planning didn’t amount to a thing.
In the ninth, Mariano Rivera gave up a single to start the inning. The next batter hit a line drive up the middle as the runner on first took off for second. Watching on TV, I saw that the ball was well struck, and knowing that the runner was moving, I sighed, seeing the inevitable: first and third, no out. Instead, Robinson Cano, who was shaded up the middle, caught the ball and walked casually to second where he tagged out the helpless runner. Dumb luck is all. Dumb luck.
Mo struck out the next guy–the ending was routine at that point–and the Yanks had an unspectacular but pleasing 5-4 win.
Not a bad way to start a day off.
[Illustration via Rotomangler]
The Yanks were on their merry way to another tidy victory this afternoon when things suddenly went bad. They were ahead 3-0 and Hiroki Kuroda had quieted the Jays all afternoon. Never mind that the Yanks blew a bases loaded chance with one man out in the middle of the game, they had a three-run lead with one out in the eighth inning. That’s when Lyle Overbay made an error and David Robertson replaced Kuroda. And before you knew it the Jays tied the game–sombitch Melky Cabrera had the big hit.
I figured that was it for our boys but the Jays made a critical error themselves which led to a couple of runs in the top of the 11th and Mariano Rivera worked around a lead-off double by Jose Bautista and a loud out by Edwin Encarnacion to earn the save. Struck the last two men out to end it.
What’s more–the Knicks put the clamps on the Celtics in the second half at the Garden and took the first game, 85-78.
And the Nuggets-Warriors game was a hell of a lot of funski, too.
[Photo Via: Lomography]
[Drawings by Moebius]
Again with the snow. Meanwhile, the Yanks are looking for a first baseman.
I’m going to skip the Mariano-worship for now. Not that I don’t love him as much as the next guy, but there will be plenty of time to wax poetic over one of our most favorite men to ever wear pinstripes. Hell, we’ve already done it plenty round here and we’ll have the hankies out and cry on each other’s shoulders all season long like a protracted Lifetime version of Yankeeography (wait, isn’t that redundant? Never mind…).