I don’t know what all the fuss over Mariano Rivera is about. The guy’s been in the major leagues since 1995, and he’s collected a grand total of zero hits in three at-bats, striking out once. That’s just a day’s work for Jason Bay.
Ah, but it seems he’s pitched, too. I’ll just click over to those stats and… Oh. My. God.
So Rivera’s set to pack it in, with one more season before he does, one we can assume will be glorious, because for whatever reason, Rivera has one-upped Dorian Gray, not just freezing the aging process, but actually posting a better ERA+ in his 30s than his 20s, and then an even better ERA+ in his 40s. Somewhere, in an attic, there’s a portrait of Mariano Rivera pitching like Doug Sisk.
But part of how I’ll always think of Mariano Rivera, naturally, is to see him patiently waiting at the plate, drawing a walk that gave the Yankees an insurance run in a June 28, 2009 game against the Mets.
Mariano Rivera: clutch hitter.
The 2009 Mets got off to a reasonably strong start. The high-water mark was a May 29 win over the Marlins, 2-1, which pushed the Mets to 27-20 and into first place in the National League East, thanks to an Omir Santos homer. A gushing Omar Minaya praised Tony Bernazard following the game for finding Santos as he announced Ramon Castro had been traded for Lance Broadway. Good times all around.
A month later, the Mets were still hanging around, trailing the Phillies by 1.5 games, and at 37-36 overall, entering that Sunday night, June 28 game against the Yankees.
If you’ve forgotten, Chien-Ming Wang and Livan Hernandez each pitched well, with Livan managing six shutout innings after spotting the Yankees three in the first. Young center fielder Fernando Martinez had an RBI double to get the Mets on the board in the sixth, and two batters later, Luis Castillo drove him in to make it 3-2.
The Mets threatened in the eighth, David Wright and Fernando Tatis drawing walks against Brian Bruney. But Joe Girardi brought in Mariano Rivera to strike out Omir Santos.
So it was 3-2 Yankees into the ninth, when Francisco Rodriguez was called upon to keep the Mets within a run. Jorge Posada singled. Melky Cabrera hit into a forceout, then stole second. Brett Gardner walked, but Johnny Damon hit a long fly out to right. Up cam Derek Jeter, while double switches had Rivera hitting behind him.
The strategy was clear: walk Jeter, and force the Yankees to either concede the inning by letting Mariano “0-for-3 career hitter” Rivera bat, or pinch-hit for him and get the Mets a lesser opposing pitcher in the bottom of the ninth.
As so often happens, things worked out well for the Mets, and ultimately for the Yankees anyway. Rivera hit. K-Rod fell behind him, 2-0, got even, Rivera fouled one off to massive cheers, then drew a walk. Cabrera scored. Citi Field booed. The Yankees won, 4-2.
Rivera shut the Mets down in the ninth for his 500th save. But Rivera ended the game against lots of teams.
He only reached base once; it happened against the New York Mets.