ANAHEIM, Calif. — New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera began his Hall of Fame career in 1995 against the California Angels at Anaheim Stadium. He picked up the first of his 632 career saves 51 weeks later against the Angels at the same ballpark. And if Rivera goes through with plans to retire after this season, one of his most dramatic saves ever came — yep, against the Angels at Angels’ Stadium.
The Yankees entered the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday with a 6-0 lead, cruising behind the left arm of CC Sabathia (7-5). However, Sabathia couldn’t get an out and was replaced by David Robertson. Robertson could only get one out, and was relieved by the man many consider the greatest relief pitcher of all time.
Rivera made it interesting before wrapping up the Bombers’ 6-5 win, which ended their five-game losing skid and the Angels’ three-game winning streak. And the final showdown was one for the ages.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the bases loaded for the Halos, up stepped arguably one oof the greatest hitter of his generation, Albert Pujols. The scene was set up for another Angels victory, but it wasn’t meant to be as Rivera struck out Pujols on three pitches to preserve the Yankee win.
Even in losing, the Angels were proud of their near-accomplishment.
“It was fun to be part of such a great rally,” said Mark Trumbo. “You know the odds are against you, but we made it close. Sometimes that’s about all you can hope for against a guy like Rivera.”
Manager Mike Scioscia agreed with Trumbo.
“We had some good at bats (in the ninth inning) and some guys off the bench did a good job,” said Scioscia, referring to JB Shuck and Brad Hawpe who reached base to keep the five-run rally going. “Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get that tying run across. Rivera made some tough pitches to Albert.”
Despite the near-comeback, it was still a loss for the Angels — and another reason to worry about their ace right-hander Jered Weaver.
The Yanks got to Weaver for five runs in the third inning, including a three-run home run from Travis Hafner to give New York a 3-0 lead. Weaver, who missed seven weeks after fracturing his left arm against Texas on April 7, had an solid return outing against the Dodgers, but has struggled with location and velocity since his return to the mound.
There’s been concern that Weaver has seen his fastball drop from around 91-93 MPH to 84-87 on the radar gun. He’s a talented enough pitcher that can easily overcome the lack of speed with location — perfect location. But the last two starts for the 1-3 Weaver have been struggles to put the ball where he wants it to go. That led to big homers and two losses.
Weaver said he was very disappointed in himself.
“I didn’t accomplish anything that I tried to do during the course of a game,” said Weaver, who saw his ERA jump to 4.41. “I wasn’t able to limit the damage in (the third) inning, and that turned out to be the difference in the game. You can’t pitch like that when you’re going up against a guy like CC.”
Scioscia said he isn’t really concerned about his ace.
“Weave will be fine,” Scioscia said. “He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball and I’m sure that once he finds a rhythm he’ll be the same pitcher he’s always been for us.
“We definitely need him to pitch to his usual level if we’re going get back into this race.”
And they need it to happen right away, as they fell 11 games behind Oakland in the AL West.