Seventy-five times. That’s how many saves Mariano Rivera has blown in his career, which is a pretty difficult number to wrap your head around. He’s always seemed automatic (and he has been for 637 career saves), but it’s days like today that remind you that he’s human.
“You don’t see it happen very often, that’s the bottom line,” Joe Girardi said after Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles. “He’s been so good for us again this year. It’s only his second (blown save) in 31 chances, so he’s just been really, really good. Whenever it happens, you’re kind of shocked. That’s how good he is.”
Rivera gave up a two-run homer to Adam Jones with one out in the ninth to snap the Yankees’ six-game winning streak and end Hiroki Kuroda’s bid for his eighth win. Kuroda was outstanding in seven innings of work after having his start skipped on Friday due to a hip flexor issue, and Rivera seemed to be most disappointed in himself for letting Kuroda down.
“I wanted it to be more in. It didn’t get in enough,” Rivera said of the pitch that Jones hit out. “It’s too bad. Hiroki really pitched a tremendous game and he should have won a game like this.”
• Rivera has had one of his best seasons with 29 saves in his final year before retirement, but he didn’t appear to have his best stuff on a hot and steamy Sunday afternoon in the Bronx. In the at-bat before Jones homered, Rivera gave up a deep fly to Nick Markakis that just hooked foul around the right field pole before allowing a base-hit to put the tying run on. “You don’t think about it,” Rivera said. “Markakis, it was one swing. It was a strike – a long foul ball. In situations like that, you don’t think that stuff. I was trying to get a groundball, and he hit it too hard.”
• Kuroda showed today that he really should have received stronger consideration for the all-star team. He allowed just three hits and no walks while striking out four on 88 pitches, lowering his season ERA to 2.77. “I don’t think it’s wasted,” Girardi said of Kuroda’s effort. “I feel a lot better than if he would have given up seven runs, I can tell you that. It was good to see him get out there and throw extremely well. I thought his sinker was good and I thought his split was extremely good today.”
• The hip didn’t seem to bother Kuroda at all today, and he reiterated that after the game. “There were no concerns,” Kuroda said. “The reason I took that MRI was to make sure that I didn’t feel anything, and I’m not going to worry about anything. I think on the mound I was able to do that.”
• Kuroda said that he felt good on the mound, and seemed especially pleased with his splitter, which generated a lot of ugly swings. He took the blown save in stride and said that he felt for Rivera. “There are times like this for him, too,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do about it.”
• The Yankees scored their only run in the second on a sac fly from Eduardo Nunez, who now has three RBI in his first two games back from the disabled list. The run was set up by Zoilo Almonte’s 11-pitch at-bat, which resulted in a leadoff walk and was followed by a single from Lyle Overbay to put runners on the corners. They weren’t able to muster anymore offense after that and have now gone a season-high-tying five straight games without a home run. “We’ve dealt with it all year,” Girardi said. “We have a lot of injuries; that’s the bottom line. That’s what we’ve dealt with all year, or things would probably be a little bit different. We’ve done a pretty good job with it.”
• I saw some Twitter activity about Rivera’s decision to wear his socks high today, and he confirmed that he did it to support David Robertson’s campaign for the final spot on the AL all-star team. Robertson pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning and looked very sharp. “I was trying to help Robby,” Rivera said. “He’s done a tremendous job, and if I can do something for him to be there, I’m going to do it. He deserves it. I didn’t really help him out today.”
• Will today’s outing mark the end of Rivera’s high sock look? “I’m not superstitious,” he said. “I can do it tomorrow or the next day, and it doesn’t bother me.”
• An update on Derek Jeter’s second rehab game today with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: He went 1 for 2 with a run scored and two walks as the DH. Another step in the right direction.
Associated Press photos