Rivera closes door on Angels in Game 4
Yankees closer continues to amaze after two-inning save
NEW YORK -- Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez has a tendency to go a little overboard with hyperbole, but when the topic is closer Mariano Rivera's playoff career, hyperbole might not be possible.
Rodriguez last year called Rivera the Michael Jordan of baseball, and on Sunday he called him one of the greatest baseball icons of the past 100 years.
Good luck making a case against A-Rod on this one. Rivera is really that good, and with two perfect innings Sunday, he didn't just save Game 4 of the American League Division Series. He saved New York's season.
"There's no reason you should ever doubt that guy," Yankees starter Shawn Chacon said of Rivera. "Ever."
"There's no doubt in your mind when he comes into the game," echoed first baseman Jason Giambi.
Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, not one to waste words, had a fittingly economical assessment of Rivera stingy outing to close New York's 3-2 victory at Yankee Stadium.
"He's the best," Posada said.
And everyone knows it, just as everyone who steps into the batter's box against Rivera knows what's coming: The nastiest cut fastball in the game, again and again and again.
Juan Rivera, Steve Finley and Adam Kennedy knew it was coming in the top of the eighth.
Groundout, strikeout, groundout.
"Here it is," Yankees manager Joe Torre marveled. "You know, if it works, it works."
Chone Figgins, Orlando Cabrera and Vladimir Guerrero knew it was coming in the ninth, too.
Strikeout, groundout, groundout. Game over. What time's the plane for California leaving?
"That he does what he does with one pitch is incredible," Chacon said. "I mean, really, it's ridiculous. He makes it look easy."
Looks, Rivera said, are deceiving.
"Let me tell you something: It's not easy," he said after his 12th postseason save of two innings or more. "It's not easy, but I trust my pitches and I trust my teammates behind me."
Nobody has earned more trust in the Yankees dugout than Rivera, though. Heading into the 2005 postseason, Rivera was 8-1 with a 0.75 ERA and 32 saves in 70 career playoff games. In 25 Division Series games, his ERA was 0.23.
"That's what you do in the postseason; you get it to Mo," Giambi said. "You start checking off the innings and try to get him into the ballgame."
With the season on the line, Torre had Rivera loosening up in the bullpen as soon as the Yankees started rallying in the bottom of the seventh. When they took the lead, Torre had a no-brainer on his hands.
"Well, you stop managing at that point," the skipper admitted. "I trust him so much."
"He's done it so many times," said Posada. "He's the guy you want out there."
Like Posada, Rivera isn't much of a talker, but he did spend a little time talking about the extra jolt he got from the huge ovation that accompanied his walk through the bullpen door and onto the field. He said he'd be ready to go in Game 5, too, even if he's needed again for two innings.
It wasn't nearly as compelling as his performance, but Rivera didn't achieve icon status as a quote machine. He's regarded as the best at what he does because of the comfort he provides everyone who plays for -- and pulls for -- the pinstripes.
"The feeling is that it's over," is how shortstop Derek Jeter described what comes with Rivera's late-game entrances. "It doesn't always happen, but that's the feeling you have. Mo has been automatic for a while."
"He's an unbelievable weapon. To have that kind of weapon on our team, we feel very blessed," added A-Rod. "I thank him all the time for getting us to this point, and I thanked him again tonight."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.