Monday, September 19, 2011

One Mariano, There's Only One Mariano

As we would sing if the Yankees were an English soccer team, to the tune of Jose Marti's "Guantanamera":

One Mariano!
There's only one Mariano!
One Mar-i-aaaan-ohhhh!

There's only one Mariano!



The Yankees have been involved in some chases this season.

The chase for the 3,000 Hit Club by Derek Jeter. It’s done.

The chase for the all-time leadership in saves by Mariano Rivera. It was done today.

The chase for the Yankees’ 50th postseason berth (51 if you count having the best record in the American League when the 1994 season ended early due to Bud Selig not being willing to settle the strike). It’s almost done: The Magic Number is 4.

The chase for the Yankees’ 16th AL Eastern Division title. It’s almost done: The Magic Number is 5.

The chase for the Yankees’ 41st AL Pennant. Theoretically, the Magic Number is 11: The 4 to get into the Playoffs, the 3 to win the AL Division Series, and the 4 to win the AL Championship Series.

And the chase for the Yankees’ 28th World Championship. Theoretically, the Magic Number is 15: The 11 from the aforementioned chase, and the 4 to win the World Series.

*

Today, the Yankees hosted the Minnesota Twins in a stand-alone makeup of a rainout.

A.J. Burnett was the Yankee starter. And the plate umpire was John Hirschbeck. Neither was a good sign.

After 3 innings, so far, so good: The Yankees led 5-0, thanks to Curtis Granderson’s 41st home run of the season, a Russell Martin single that drove in a run, an RBI triple by Robinson Cano and the subsequent single by Nick Swisher.

The only downside was that a 5-run lead would mean a pitcher would have to pitch the last 3 innings of the win to qualify for the save.

But Chris Parmalee took Burnett deep to open the top of the 4th. Two singles followed, and suddenly Good A.J. was turning back into Bad A.J. A.J. got an out, walked a batter to load the bases, then got a strikeout to end it.

With 1 out in the top of the 5th, Michael Cuddyer homered, and Parmelee doubled. So long, A.J. In came Cory Wade, who allowed a walk, a single to load the bases, and a groundout to make the score 5-4. Uh-oh, Five-nil and w...

Nope, Wade struck out the next 2 batters to end it. In the bottom of the 6th, Jeter led off with a great bunt and beat it out. (Did somebody say he was 37 years old? Did somebody say he was in decline?) Granderson grounded into a force, but Mark Teixeira’s grounder moved Grandy to 2nd. Then Alex Rodriguez (himself only 228 hits from 3,000 now) singled Grandy home to make it 6-4 Yankees.

You never know when them insurance runs are gonna matter. This one didn’t, because Rafael Soriano was perfect in the 7th, and so was David Robertson in the 8th.

Top of the 9th. The bullpen door opens. Holding his glove, out runs Number 42, Mariano Rivera.

Sorry, Jackie Robinson, but, today, Number 42 is someone else.

Exit light.
Enter night.
Take my hand...

We’re off to never-never land!


Metallica seems like such an odd choice for the soft-spoken, saintly Rivera. But he’s Mariano Rivera, so he can enter to “Enter Sandman” or any other song he might want.

He got Trevor Plouffe to ground out to Cano. One out.

He got Cuddyer to hit a sinking liner that Chris Dickerson, subbing for Swisher in right, was able to catch. Two out.

Last man standing between the Yankees and another victory, between Mariano and another piece of history, was the Twins’ big bat of the day, Parmelee.

No contest: A 92 MPH cutter, called Strike 1. A 91 MPH cutter, fouled off, Strike 2. A 93MPH cutter, called Strike 3.

Cue John Sterling: “Ballgame over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeee Yankees win!”

Cue Phil Rizzuto: “Holy cow!”

Cue Mel Allen: “How about that!”

Career save Number 602. This is actually more impressive than Jeter’s 3,000 hits (now 3,080), because that had been done before, if not all in a Yankee uniform. 602 saves? Until this afternoon, it had never been done by anyone in any uniform.

The Top 10 in career saves is now the following:

1. Mariano Rivera 602 (active)
2. Trevor Hoffman 601 (former all-time leader)
3. Lee Smith 478 (former all-time leader)
4. John Franco 424 (all-time leader among lefthanders, former leader among National Leaguers)
5. Billy Wagner 422 (2nd among lefties)
6. Dennis Eckersley 390
7. Jeff Reardon 367 (former all-time leader)
8. Troy Percival 358
9. Randy Myers 347
10. Rollie Fingers 341 (former all-time leader)

Franco, of course, Wagner, Reardon and Myers are former Mets. Smith and Reardon were briefly Yankees. Incredibly, of these, only Eck and Fingers are already in the Hall of Fame, although Hoffman, Wagner, Percival and, obviously, Rivera are not yet eligible.

John Wetteland, Rivera's predecessor as Yankee closer, is 11th with 330. Ex-Met Rick Aguilera is 16th with 318. Yankee Hall-of-Famer Rich "Goose" Gossage is 19th with 310 (he used to be 2nd behind Fingers). The (somehow) still-active Jason Isringhausen, back with the Mets, is 22nd with 300, tied with HOFer Bruce Sutter. Ex-Met Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez is 24th with 291, and ex-Met (and, briefly, ex-Yankee) Armando Benitez is 25th with 289.

More ex-Yankees: Bob Wickman has 267, Dave Righetti 252, Sparky Lyle 238. Met and Phillie legend Tug McGraw? Surprisingly, only 180.

Among active pitchers, Mariano is the only one with 400; Francisco Cordero and Isringhausen have 300; K-Rod, Joe Nathan, Jose Valverde, Brad Lidge and Jonathan Papelbon have 200, and Brian Fuentes is 1 save away from joining them.

Papelbon has 218, but he's already 30 and has been hurt a few times, so it looks like Mariano's record is safe for quite some time.

*

So the Yankees won, and Mariano broke the record. To make matters even better, the Red Sox lost to the Baltimore Orioles today, in the first game of a rain-forced doubleheader.

The Sox are now 5½ games behind the Yankees, 6 in the loss column, with 9 games to play (10 for us). And the Tampa Bay Rays, who were not scheduled for today, come into Yankee Stadium II tomorrow for a 3-gamer, and are just a game and a half behind the Sox for the AL Wild Card, a single solitary game in that AILC, the All-Important Loss Column.

Should the Yankees lose to the Rays, to set up a Sox Playoff berth, and thus give themselves a chance for full, final revenge for the Sox’ steroid-driven 2004 win? No: Give it all you got, try to beat the Rays, and let the chips fall where they may.

Because, to paraphrase the great comedian Mark Russell, few teams in all of sports have been hurt by falling chips as much as the Boston Red Sox.

So here’s the remaining regular season for all 3 teams:

Tonight: Game 2 of the doubleheader, Orioles at Red Sox.

Tomorrow through Thursday: Rays at Yanks, Orioles at Red Sox.

Friday through Sunday: Red Sox at Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays at Rays. (Let the Jays be pesky to Tampa Bay for a change.)

The following Monday through Wednesday: The regular season closes with Yankees at Rays and Red Sox at Orioles – but the way both the Pinstripes and The Scum are followed by their traveling fans, and the way both the Rays and the O’s have done at the box office, it could seem like home games for the New York and Boston teams.

My prediction: The Yankees will clinch the Division against the Sox on Friday night, but, with 4 games left against the O’s, the Sox will win the Wild Card.

*

Jeter hits 3080 DONE
Rivera saves 602 DONE
A-Rod homers 629 134
A-Rod hits 2772 228
Magic Number 5 (to clinch Division, 4 to clinch Playoff berth)

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