After Mariano Rivera nailed down his 602nd save in this 6-4 win over the Twins, he stood by himself as the all-time saves leader, passing Trevor Hoffman. The Yankees streamed out of the dugout and bullpen to hug him. And then Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada directed Rivera back to stand by himself on the mound to receive some love from the fans.
“Oh my God, for the first time in my career, I’m on the mound alone,” Rivera said. “There’s nobody behind me, nobody in front of me. I can’t describe that feeling because it was priceless.”
The feeling at the end of the eighth was mixed because the fans cheered when Nick Swisher hit into an inning-ending double play to preserve the historic save situation.
“I wanted to pitch, but I don’t want my teammates to do bad for me to pitch,” Rivera said. “When I saw that, I was like, ‘These fans are crazy. We need to score some runs’. But at the same time, I appreciated it because they wanted me to pitch.”
But he added: “I’ll be honest. I was happy, too, when Swisher hit into the double play because I had the opportunity.”
When he had the record, he was happy and relieved. He doesn’t like being in the media spotlight.
“Don’t get me wrong, it feels good,” Rivera said. “I wasn’t expecting this, but thank God it happened. Thank God it’s over, too, because I was getting a little uncomfortable.
“I like to be under the radar and do my job.”
Trevor Hoffman issued a statement: “I want to congratulate Mariano Rivera on setting the all-time saves record. It’s a great accomplishment and he is still going strong! I have tremendous respect for Mariano not just for his on-field accomplishments, but also for his service to the community.”
Lost in all the euphoria was the Yankees’ starting pitching — a disaster again. A.J. Burnett got knocked out after four-plus innings, charged with four runs and nine hits. Even though he fanned eight, he really flopped in this latest audition for postseason work. He has two wins in his last 14 starts, posting a 7.02 ERA over that span.
Unless these starters start getting their acts together, the Yankees better hope their lineup is swinging well in the postseason.
After this Yankees win and Boston’s loss in the first game of its doubleheader against the Orioles, the magic number to clinch the East was five. The Yankees had a 5 1/2-game lead over the reeling Red Sox. The magic number to clinch a playoff spot was four. The Yankees have 10 games left, all against the Rays and Sox.
*The Yankees used to struggle against starters facing them for the first time. This season, they’re now 17-4, with 12 straight wins.
*Curtis Granderson hit a homer off starter Scott Diamond, his 16th against lefties, the most since Ryan Howard hit 16 against them in 2007. Granderson has 41 homers, one behind Jose Bautista for the major-league lead. Granderson leads the majors with 115 RBI.
*Derek Jeter went 3 for 4. He’s at .331 overall, .408 against lefties and .536 vs. lefties at home since coming off the DL on July 4.
*The four-game Tampa Bay series starts here Tuesday night, with Ivan Nova and Wade Davis down to start.