New York – When Mariano Rivera comes out of the New York Yankees bullpen and gives up a home run, in particular one that goes as a blown save the questions begin to surmount. Is the American League career saves leader bothered by an injury, or has Mr. invincible seen his last days as the premiere closer in the game?
Rivera was not perfect Sunday afternoon in the Bronx at Yankee Stadium as the Yankees tried to sweep a three-game series from the Minnesota Twins. Rivera surrendered a game deciding grand slam home run to the Twins’ Jason Kubel in the eighth inning after being called on by Manager Joe Girardi to get a four-out save.
But it was not the eighth career grand slam hit by Kubel that bothered Rivera. It was the walk to Jim Thome that loaded the bases when he came out of the pen. It was a 1-0 pitch off a Rivera cutter that went to right field. That was the difference and snapped a nine-game winning streak against the Twins, 12 overall including the post season of last year.
“You can’t go in there and do that,” was the brief explanation Rivera gave about the walk to Thome that walked in a run. It was the first runs of the season allowed by Rivera which also snapped an 11.01 scoreless streak to start the season. He also failed to convert his first save opportunity since last September 19th at Seattle.
“It’s a pretty good feeling,” said Kubel about his third home run of the season and sixth career grand slam. “It’s an even better feeling that we finally beat them.”
It also snapped a streak of 51 successfully converted saves opportunities at home. The rare blown save by Rivera always leads to speculation. Is something wrong with “Mo” who had been bothered last week with a sore left side?
“For me to walk in a run is unacceptable,” commented Rivera. With Sergio Mitre getting the start, and Javier Vasquez pushed back to start Friday evening, against the Mets at Citi Field Girardi was working with a short pen and needed to call upon Rivera for the save.
He fell behind the count to Kubel. “Yeah, Mo came in to a tough situation,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire who has been the victim of more than one Rivera, save during the Yankees streak against his team. “Thome was able to work out a walk and Kubel got hold of a cutter that hadn’t cut yet.”
Gardenhire added, “You probably have recorded that because it’s probably not something that you will often see. As far as I’m concerned, he is the best in the game.”
And to Girardi, the Yankees and their fans a blown save by Rivera is acceptable. “He’s human, he showed he’s human,” said Girardi about his reliable closer.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com