THE MO-ST VALUABLE – IN PLAYOFFS, NO ONE BIGGER THAN RIVERA
ARLINGTON, Texas – With all the talk about Cliff Lee, let’s
remember that the greatest pitcher in the history of the postseason
works for the
And Mariano Rivera can impact two games before Lee even starts
in the ALCS – and as many as seven in all.
“It is not always the physical advantage, but the mental
advantage,” Alex Rodriguez said about having Rivera in October. “We
feel these are eightinning games. We feel if we get there, he is
the ultimate weapon.” He is the safety blanket no other team of
this generation has possessed.
Yankees won the World Series last
year for a lot of reasons, but it is hard to ignore this: Eight
closers began the postseason. Seven messed up significantly at some
point. One didn’t. The one was Rivera, and the
Yankees got to ride the Canyon of
Rivera, of course, has had his failures at this time of year.
Sandy Alomar in 1997, Luis Gonzalez in 2001, Dave Roberts in 2004.
But how could he not have the failures? Rivera has pitched the
equivalent of two closer seasons in his playoff career, 1362/3
innings. The sheer volume of work assures glitches.
However, what resonates is the magnitude of success in this
forum. Rivera is the greatest closer in history, April through
September. Yet his best work comes from October on. It is when he
should be most exhausted. It is when the competition rises, and the
Orioles and Royals of the world go home.
Yet here is Rivera with a postseason record 0.72 ERA. That
equates to roughly one run every 121/3 innings.
Again, think about it. Best hitters, biggest pressure, one run
every 121/3 innings. In his glorious regular-season career,
opponents hit .210 with a .263 on-base percentage and a .290
slugging percentage. In the postseason he is better across the
Rivera has delivered 1,769 pitches in his postseason career and
on two of them – TWO – he has allowed a homer. TWO.
“I can’t explain it,” Rivera said. “I know the Good Lord is
watching over me. Also, when you are in the playoffs, it is a
blessing. So many great players never get here. So I take it like I
have never been here before and I will never be here again.” But he
is here all the time. He has thrown in a record 91 games, including
all three in the Division Series against the Twins: 11 batters, two
singles, no runs, two saves. Rivera ended the season with some
doubt, hit around a bit in September.
Was that age-40 coming into play, proving that Rivera is not
actually an android? Pitching coach Dave Eiland says it was about
hand positioning, Rivera getting around instead of on top of his
signature cutter, causing that pitch to flatten rather than to be a
whipsaw breaking bats.
The proper positioning returned against Minnesota and, “He was
crisp and locating,” according to Eiland.
Eiland says that the Yanks will try to temper Rivera’s workload
against the Rangers, trust a Kerry Wood or a David Robertson in the
eighth. Eiland knows that Rivera might just be too hard to resist,
and Rivera sees no problem going more than three outs whenever
necessary. He did it ALDS Game 1, getting a four-out save.
Thirty-one of Rivera’s record 41 postseason serves are of more
than three outs. The rest of the majors have a combined 36 in the
same time frame.
“Once you get to the sixth inning and we have even a one-run
lead, the other team is thinking, ‘We better score,’ ” Mark
Teixeira said. “That is because of Mo.” Indeed, this is his forum,
Lee is great, but there have been other great starters in the
postseason, including Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum in 2010. But
there is no other Rivera, not this time of year.
The Savior (s, lcf)
Mariano Rivera is set to appear in his 31st postseason series in
pinstripes. Here’s a look at his jaw-dropping numbers
W-L ERA G SV IP H ER BB SO WHIP
8-1 0.72 73 41 136.2 84 11 21 108 0.768