This didn’t seem like a day to make history. After five innings, it was shaping up to be a low point of an already rocky road trip. Bartolo Colon hadn’t pitched beyond the fourth, Robinson Can had cost the Yankees a run with his base-running blunder, and the Yankees lineup was being shutdown by a 21-year-old kid making his eighth big league start.
Then the bullpen started putting up zeros, and the rejuvenated lineup started hitting home runs, and pretty soon Mariano Rivera was jogging in from the bullpen to tie Trevor Hoffman’s record for career saves.
“It doesn’t depend on myself,” Rivera said. “If my teammates don’t score that many runs, I wouldn’t pitch at all. I have no say about it until I have the opportunity to pitch. I just have to be ready for every situation.”
“It’s pretty much what Mo’s done his whole career, broken bats and strikeouts,” Joe Girardi said. “… (Save number) 602 is the big one because I think it puts the final stamp on that he’s the greatest closer of all time. I don’t think in this room we have any question, and I don’t want to take anything away from Trevor Hoffman, but when you’ve been around Mo as long as I have, we’ve seen a lot of special things.”
Rivera’s wife and two of his sons are in Toronto. They’re flown here to witness history, just in case it happens. Rivera said he would love to break the record at home, but it’s the nature of his job that Rivera can’t predict when or where it will happen.
“I am uncomfortable,” he said. “I don’t have this much attention at all. I’d like you guys to just leave it alone and be good… Don’t get me wrong, don’t think that I don’t appreciate it, because I do appreciate it. I’m a team player, and whatever happens with me is because my teammates permit it. First God, then my teammates.”
• Today’s game-winner was Curtis Granderson’s 40th home run of the season. He’d been struggling since late August, but when the Yankees needed him, Granderson played like an MVP again. “It’s just Grandy,” Girardi said. “That’s what happens. He’s the kind of guy that can carry you on certain days.”
• Of course, the home run that stands out probably belongs to Alex Rodriguez, who went deep in sixth inning for his second hit in his first game back from a week layoff. “When we talked yesterday when I came off the field (after batting practice),” Rodriguez said. “That’s why I was so happy because I haven’t felt that good in a long time. My body feels energized. My knee feels really strong. With that little tape we have in the middle, hopefully it’s not an issue.”
• Rodriguez said he absolutely expects to play tomorrow.
• Rodriguez hit fifth in the Yankees lineup for the first time since September 6, 2006. The run he scored on the homer was the 1,820th of his career, moving him into a tie with Eddie Collins for 14th on baseball’s all-time runs scored list.
• Robinson Cano’s base-running blunder in the fourth seemed very costly for a while. He assumed Colby Rasmus wouldn’t catch Nick Swisher’s fly ball to center — to be fair, I thought the same thing — and he broke from second without looking back. It should have been a sac fly to score Mark Teixeira. It became an inning-ending double play. “I saw him coming and he kind of had his head down,” Teixeira said. “Once he passed me, he’s out or I’m out — one of us is out — and the play is over. It really shouldn’t happen. He knows better, but sometimes you make mistakes and you learn from them.”
• Joe Girardi didn’t have Dave Robertson available, and he wasn’t sure he’d have Rafael Soriano until Soriano warmed up in the bullpen and gave the green light to pitch the eighth. If not Soriano, Girardi was either going to have Hector Noesi pitch a second inning or mix-and-match in the eighth.
• Frankly, it was an impressive showing by the entire bullpen. Scott Proctor, Aaron Laffey, Noesi, Soriano and Rivera threw a scoreless inning apiece to give the Yankees time for a comeback. They allowed a total of one base runner in five innings.
• Soriano has struck out the past six batters hes faced.
• Not such a good outing for Bartolo Colon. “I just didn’t think he used his sinker enough today,” Girardi said. “That’s what I saw was the issue early on. Then he seemed to do better in the third and got in trouble in the fourth. Is he running out of gas? I don’t know. We saw a pretty good start the other day in Anaheim. It’s hard to say.”
• Girardi said Colon was using his sinker away from lefties, but for whatever reason he wasn’t using it inside to lefties.
• The Yankees improved to 40-11 in day games this season.
• Bartolo Colon now has an 8.74 ERA in his three starts at Rogers Centre this season… On the opposite end of the Toronto spectrum, Nick Swisher had a 12-game hitting streak at Rogers Center snapped this afternoon.
• This is the way Phil Hughes explained his back spasms: “It’s happened before,” he said. “It just locks up. It didn’t affect my bullpen at all. I finished it normally, then after that, while I was going to lift, I was walking into the weight room and it just kind of spasmed on me.”
• Hughes has no doubt that he’ll be able to pitch on Tuesday. “I told them I would probably be good to go by Monday, but they didn’t want to chance it,” he said.
• It was brought up to Rivera that some would argue breaking Hoffman’s record will eliminate whatever slight debate there might be about Rivera being he greatest closer of all time. “It doesn’t make me better or worse,” Rivera said. “People are going to say whatever they are going to say, but I feel normal. I have to do my job.”
Associated Press photos