NEW YORK (AP) — Joe Girardi remembers the first time he caught Mariano Rivera, before the start of the 1996 season, back when he was still a player.
“I was like, ‘Who is this kid?”‘ Girardi recalled. “I’m like, ‘Man, this kid is special.”
Girardi is the Yankees’ manager now. Rivera is no longer a kid.
He’s still something special, though.
The 41-year-old Rivera became the first player in major league history to make 1,000 appearances with the same team on Wednesday, cleaning up the ninth inning of a 7-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on a sun-splashed afternoon in the Bronx.
Andruw Jones tried to steal the show by cracking a pair of two-run homers, and Mark Teixeira also hit a two-run shot, while Freddy Garcia (3-4) pitched well for 6 1-3 innings.
But once the game reached the ninth and “Enter Sandman” played over the loudspeakers at Yankee Stadium, the crowd of 43,201 knew that the day would forever belong to Mo.
“You have to be old to do that,” Rivera said with a smile. “You’ve got to have the right combination, I guess, an organization willing to keep you around and you doing your job.”
The 11-time All-Star is the 15th player to reach 1,000 appearances, during that time helping the franchise to 15 playoffs and five World Series titles.
Next up on the list for Rivera is former Yankee Goose Gossage, who appeared in 1,002 games during his career.
Jesse Orosco is the all-time leader with 1,252 appearances.
“He’s never really fooled people,” Girardi said, musing about Rivera’s cut fastball. “Mo has said, ‘Here it is. It’s going to cut, it’s going to sink and I’m going to throw it where I want, and try to do something with it.’ And I can’t think of another pitcher who’s done that.”
Jones homered in the second inning and Teixeira in the third off Jo-Jo Reyes (0-4), who matched a major league record by making his 28th consecutive start without a win.
Jones, who went 3 for 3, also hit a rocket off Luis Perez over the center field wall in the sixth inning. It was Jones’ 41st multihomer game and first since May 1, 2010, when he went deep twice at Yankee Stadium as a member of the Chicago White Sox.
“They left a couple of pitches over the plate and I took advantage of them,” Jones said.
The homer binge helped Girardi pass current Orioles skipper Buck Showalter for eighth place on the Yankees’ managerial wins list. Girardi has 314 victories in pinstripes.
Juan Rivera, Eric Thames and Jayson Nix each drove in a run for Toronto, but the big bat of Jose Bautista went quiet again. The majors’ home run leader managed a lone single.
Reyes never really gave himself a chance to earn a win, allowing back-to-back doubles by Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson to start the game. The run that Jeter scored pushed him past Cap Anson (1,712) for 23rd place on baseball’s career runs scored list.
By the time Reyes left after the third inning, the Blue Jays trailed 5-0 and the left-hander was assured of another frustrating afternoon without a victory.
“I’m not worried about that streak,” he said. “When I step on the rubber, all I’m worried about is executing the pitch.”
He hasn’t done that enough. At least, not for quite a while.
Reyes hasn’t been the winning pitcher since June 13, 2008, when he beat the Los Angeles Angels as a member of the Atlanta Braves. His 28-game winless stretch matches that of Matt Keough, who didn’t win a game for the Athletics from Sept. 6, 1978, to Aug. 8, 1979.
“Jo-Jo wasn’t as sharp as he’s been. He didn’t have a consistent location or a consistent command and it cost him,” Toronto manager John Farrell said. “Regardless if it’s a guy coming off of the bench for them, like Jones, they have a potent lineup.”
NOTES: Keough tossed a complete game in his next start, a 6-1 win over Milwaukee on Sept. 5, 1979. … Toronto caught Granderson asleep at second base in the first inning. Bautista made a diving grab in right and chased Teixeira back with a throw to first. Granderson was still at third, so Juan Rivera threw to second for the rare 9-3-6 double play. … Yankees setup man Rafael Soriano could be out two months after a visit Wednesday with Dr. James Andrews confirmed he has an inflamed ligament in his right elbow, GM Brian Cashman said.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)