By Sweeny Murti
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Continuing our conversation with Mariano Rivera about 10 defining moments in his career:
On Wednesday, we looked at two of the most emotional nights at the old Yankee Stadium. Today we take a look at memories made in the first year of New York’s current baseball stadiums.
One was a memory made at the plate, and the other on the mound.
2009: Save No. 500, RBI No. 1
Mariano Rivera’s milestone saves (300, 400, etc.) are hardly memorable because they are mostly like any other game he has finished in his great career. This one was different.
Rivera, pitching at Citi Field in a Subway Series game on June 28, 2009, was brought into the eighth inning of a 3-2 game. Under National League rules, obviously, the pitcher needed to bat, so Rivera was double-switched into the lineup. He was due up sixth in the top of the ninth inning.
Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez was trying to keep it to just a one-run deficit, but he put two men on with two outs and faced Derek Jeter with Mariano Rivera on deck. Jeter was intentionally walked to bring up Rivera, who is very proud of the fact he made contact in each of his three career World Series at-bats. And only four days earlier during another interleague game in Atlanta, Rivera flew out with the bases loaded.
This time, Rivera again came up with the bases loaded, on a Sunday night on national television.
“I got the bat (borrowed from infielder Cody Ransom) and I got into the box,” Rivera recalled. “(Rodriguez) threw me a pitch over the plate and I swung and fouled it straight back. I said ‘Oh my God.’ So now (the count is) 3-2, and my side was sore after that swing. I said anything close I’m going to try to put it in play, but if not I’ll take the walk.
“And he went up and in, and I got the walk.”
And his first career run batted in, to make it a 4-2 game.
Now, Rivera was standing on the one place on the baseball diamond he never had the chance to stand before. First base.
“I didn’t want to be there! I’m not a hitter. The last thing (I wanted to) happen, was someone hit the ball in the gap and I had to run all the way, but it didn’t happen, thank God.”
After Mark Teixeira struck out to finally end the inning, Rivera set the Mets down in the bottom of the ninth or his 500th career save. A game that was much, much more memorable for his first career RBI.
2009 World Series: Back On Top
Rivera came to the majors in 1995, and starting the next year the Yankees ran off four World Series championships in five years. After getting there, but falling short in 2001 and 2003, the Yankees didn’t make it back to the World Series until 2009. And Mariano was still a major reason why they did.
And eleven years after being on the mound for the last out against San Diego, and nine years after doing it for the last time against the Mets, eight years after failing to get that final out against Arizona, Rivera was on the mound again to clinch the 2009 World Series against the Phillies.
And when Shane Victorino grounded out to end Game 6, the Yankees were World Champions again.
“It made me feel that you can never take it for granted,” Rivera said. “You think that you have the chance to be there every year, and that’s not going to happen. We gave everything. They weren’t easy games. Victorino was a tough out, I threw (10 pitches) to get that out. But we did it. And again, what a release and what a feeling that we were champions again.”
Tomorrow, the fans show their appreciation for Mariano in ways he will never forget.
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