Published September 19, 2011
NEW YORK – Mariano Rivera set the major league record with his 602nd career save, pitching a perfect ninth inning Monday to preserve the New York Yankees' 6-4 win over the Minnesota Twins.
With fans standing and cheering from his first pitch to his last, Rivers retired Trevor Plouffe, Michael Cuddyer and Chris Parmelee to end it. Parmelee looked at strike three -- it appeared to be Rivera's signature cutter -- as Yankee Stadium roared in approval.
The 41-year-old Rivera tied Trevor Hoffman with save No. 601 on Saturday in Toronto. The Yankees lost Sunday, putting Rivera in line to get the milestone in the Yankees' last homestand of the season.
A.J. Burnett didn't make it past the fifth inning, but the Yankees bullpen kept the Twins at bay until Rivera came on in the ninth, and Curtis Granderson hit his 41st homer of the year.
In the bottom of the eighth, Nick Swisher grounded into an inning-ending double play -- and drew a loud cheer from fans who wanted to see history made at the ballpark for the second time this summer. In July, Derek Jeter got his 3,000th hit at home.
On Monday, the crowd hollered as Rivera came in to the customary strains of "Enter Sandman." The fans grew louder with every strike, every out as Rivera closed in. He even broke a bat for good measure -- sawing off Parmelee and sending him back to the dugout.
Parmelee lasted only one more pitch. Plate umpire John Hirschbeck rung him up, and catcher Russell Martin came out to the mound, gently placed the ball in Rivera's glove, and then gave the skinny Panamanian a big hug.
Rivera stayed and accepted congratulations -- Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and finally Jeter came over to him before the bullpen and bench got there while the Twins watched from their dugout.
Eventually, Rivera was left on the mound and tried to sneak off the field with his teammates. His longtime teammate Jorge Posada pushed him, laughing, onto the mound, where fans cheered him once again.
Rivera waved, blew a kiss and then doffed his cap to the afternoon crowd that was short of capacity, but buzzed with anticipation once the Yankees headed into the late innings with a close lead -- perfect for Rivera.
In fact, this makeup game drew the smallest crowd at 3-year-old Yankee Stadium, STATS LLC said.
New York now has another goal before heading to Tampa Bay to close the season: Winning the AL East. The Yankees lead Boston by 5 1/2 games with 10 to play.
The Twins lost their ninth straight, tying a run in May as their worst of the season. The Yankees have been struggling, too -- this was just their fifth win in 12 games.
Rivera has finished their last three, though. He tied Hoffman on Saturday in Toronto after getting No. 600 in Seattle on Sept. 13.
Paid attendance was 40,045, less than the capacity crowd and attendant hullabaloo surrounding Jeter's historic hit.
Now that the milestone is behind him, Rivera can focus on getting ready for his 16th October in 17 seasons -- that's when he really made his reputation. Those 602 saves don't count any of the 42 wins -- in 47 chances -- he locked down in the playoffs.
Granderson's homer came in the first after Jeter reached on an infield single and Robinson Cano hit an RBI triple in the third followed by Swisher's single to make it 5-0. Rodriguez hit a two-out RBI single in the sixth.