Published December 19, 2016
Despite just being chosen for his 13th All-Star squad, veteran New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was in unfamiliar territory when the Baltimore Orioles' Adam Jones stepped to the plate Sunday in the ninth inning.
Hitting a two-run homer against "the greatest closer in the history of the game," Jones said he always remember the day he helped the Orioles beat the Yankees.
The 2-1 loss marked Rivera's second blown save in 31 chances during his farewell season. Baseball's career saves leader had converted 41 tries in a row at home since his last failure on Sept. 26, 2010, against Boston.
"I wanted it to be more in. Didn't get in enough," Rivera said. "It wasn't really a mistake, just good hitting."
"Whenever it happens you're kind of shocked, that's how good he is," manager Joe Girardi said.
The Orioles' victory also ended the Yankees' longest winning streak of the season yet at six games.
A healthy Hiroki Kuroda pitched seven innings of three-hit ball for the Yankees, unable to finish off a three-game sweep after Baltimore took all three games from them at Camden Yards last weekend.
David Robertson worked a 1-2-3 eighth and the 43-year-old Rivera (1-2) entered looking to reach 30 saves for the 15th time, which would break a tie with Trevor Hoffman for the major league record.
With one out, Nick Markakis made a bid for a tying homer but his drive hooked just wide of the right-field foul pole. Markakis then singled sharply to center for his third hit and Jones, elected to his first All-Star start on Saturday, drove an 0-1 pitch to left for his 16th home run.
Darren O'Day (5-0) got two outs and Jim Johnson, who blew a save in the series opener Friday, struck out two in a perfect ninth for his major league-leading 30th save in 36 attempts.
Baltimore finished 2-4 on its road trip against the Chicago White Sox and Yankees.
"Obviously, that's what you want. You want the ball as soon as possible. You want to try and redeem yourself and get back in a groove," Johnson said. "I felt like I was more aggressive with my fastball today and located it a little better."
New York fell to 40-2 when leading after eight innings.
The only other home run Rivera allowed this season was to Tampa Bay slugger Evan Longoria on April 23. The last long ball he gave up at Yankee Stadium was to Russell Branyan of the Angels on Aug. 11, 2011.
"You don't want to go out there and get swept, especially against the teams in your division in games you need to win," Markakis said. "The way Kuroda threw the ball and, like I said, the conditions, we'll take it."
Kuroda outpitched Jason Hammel on a day when the 92-degree temperature seemed to sap power from the bats on both sides — until Jones connected. During the game, the Yankees put an announcement on the big video board informing fans about several stations around the ballpark where they could cool off and get water.
Kuroda, beaten Sunday night at Baltimore in the series finale, skipped a turn because of a tweaked hip flexor. But the 38-year-old right-hander felt fine during his latest bullpen session and just ended up getting pushed back two days.
Helped by some solid defense, Kuroda struck out four and walked one while throwing 88 efficient pitches.
Hammel threw 69 of 102 pitches for strikes, but that only got him through five innings as the Yankees fouled off many of his best offerings. He is 0-3 in seven starts since beating Washington on May 27.
Orioles third baseman Manny Machado made a jaw-dropping play to end the sixth, showing why he was selected to the All-Star team Saturday on his 21st birthday.
Machado knocked down Luis Cruz's high bouncer with a backhand behind the bag, but the ball was rolling away from him when he picked it up with his bare hand. In one twisting motion that almost defied the physics of athletic momentum, he zinged a perfect throw across his body to first base — from deep in foul territory.
After he was called out, Cruz looked across the diamond in disbelief at Machado, who ended up near the dugout railing.
Eduardo Nunez hit a sacrifice fly for New York in the second.
"Hiroki pitched a tremendous game and we should've, should've won that game," Rivera said. "That would've been a great game to save."
Editor's Note: A previously published version of this article noted that Mariano Rivera's blown save was the second one in Rivera's career. In fact, it was the second one just this season. We regret the error.