Back in April of 1996, Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly said of Mariano Rivera: “That guy, he should be in a higher league. Ban him from baseball. He should be illegal.” At the time, Rivera had zero Major League saves and the Mets and Yankees had never played each other in a game that counted. Last night, Mo earned his 500th career save in a 4-2 win over the Mets, and it will be just as memorable for what he did at the plate than what he did on the mound.
Rivera came in to pitch in the 8th inning last night with the Yankees clinging to a 3-2 lead and Met runner in scoring position. After striking out Omir Santos, the Yankee lineup ended up getting to Rivera’s spot in the order. And Mo did something he had never ever done in his Major League career — reach base. Not only that, he earned an RBI for his bases-loaded walk by Francisco Rodriguez.
Earlier in the inning, the Yankees had engaged in some shenangians, sending Francisco Cervelli to the on-deck circle for Rivera when Derek Jeter was up with runners on 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs. This led to maybe the only time in history in which Steve Phillips and Joe Morgan have made tons of sense. There’s no way Rivera’s coming out of the game, with the Yankees leading 3-2, yet Jerry Manuel initially chose to have K-Rod pitch to Jeter with a base open. Knowing, mind you, that there was a 0% chance that Joe Girardi would lift Rivera for a pinch-hitter. Morgan and Phillips stopped just short of calling Manuel a moron for throwing Jeter a strike on the first pitch. After two balls out of the zone, the Mets finally gave Jeter the free pass. Rivera, of course, strolled to the plate, and was promptly walked (after he fought off a tough 2-2 pitch).
Rivera is still #2 all-time in saves to Trevor Hoffman, but will go down in history as the best closer ever because of his ridiculous 0.77 ERA (in 117+ innings) and 34 saves in the postseason. Plus, he’s now the only closer in MLB history with 500 saves who has been walked by another pitcher (Hoffman has no walks in 35 plate appearances).
It’s only fitting that the Mets were instrumental in all of this, as they keep finding new and interesting ways to fail against their cross-town rivals.
1) Shortstop Stephen Drew lobbed a perfect strike to first baseman Mark Reynolds on a routine grounder. And Reynolds dropped the ball. Just dropped it. It was so bad, it actively looked like he was either trying to drop the ball or had never played baseball in his life.
2) Maicer Izturis lined a shot directly to right fielder Justin Upton. This ball also had the gall to hit Upton right in the glove, and he too made a complete mess out of it, as it bounded away from him and rolled to the wall.
3) The next batter, Bobby Abreu hit a ground ball directly at second baseman Felipe Lopez, who fielded the ball and threw him out. Unfortunately, the ball Lopez fielded was imaginary and the actual ball was somewhere in right-center.
This disaster came just one day after Arizona played a bunt by Erick Aybar into a t-ball home run (courtesy of two throwing errors on the same play). Is it any wonder the D-Backs are 30-46? Weren’t they one of the rising teams in baseball a couple of years ago?
And everything was looking really great for the U.S., which came back from near-certain elimination in the group stage of the Confederations Cup to shock Spain in the semis and take a 2-0 halftime lead over Brazil in the final. And while the Americans deserved the early lead, the Brazilians were clearly the better team over the course of 90 minutes, outshooting the U.S. 31-9. It was only a matter of time before they found the back of the net, and they beat Tim Howard three times in the second half to take the title.
The NEW YORK TIMES says that U.S. soccer narrowly missed a “moment” it needed to gain the sport traction in this country again. While the run to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals was gripping, the games were played in the middle of the night and the Americans came up short in the one game everyone finally tuned into (the quarterfinal loss to Germany). Likewise, most casual fans missed the huge win over Spain on Wednesday, but were glued to the screen as Brazil stormed back to crush our dreams once again on Sunday.
Still, the U.S. soccer program is in better shape now than it has ever been, but if the sport is really going to take the next step in this country (if that can actually ever happen), they can’t afford to have a weak showing on the return trip to South Africa next summer.
• The single-A California League is known as the place where pitchers’ ERAs go to die. This is especially true in the wind-blown desert of Victorville, where the High Desert Mavericks scored 18 runs last night in a home game against the Lake Elsinore Storm. Oh, and they lost by 15 runs.
You read that right. The Storm scored 22 runs in the first five innings, then added 11 more in the last two, and beat High Desert 33-18. The game lasted 4 hours and 10 minutes and was played in 100-degree heat. There were 10 home runs hit, and Lake Elsinore’s starting pitcher gave up 11 runs and would’ve earned the win if his manager hadn’t lifted him with 2 outs in the fifth inning and his team leading by 11 runs. Lake Elsinore picked up 32 hits while the Mavericks had 26. Two of those hits were by outfielder James McOwen, a lightly-regarded prospect who extended his hitting streak to a league-record 36 games.
• TNT’s play-by-play man for NASCAR was suspended from yesterday’s broadcast for a “loud and public confrontation” that took place at his hotel the other night. Nobody in the booth mentioned their missing colleague, Bill Weber.
• BLACK VOICES says Serena Williams is writing a TV pilot inspired by both “Sex and the City” and “Family Guy.” Just to warn you, Serena, the Sarah Jessica Parker-looks-like-a-horse joke is kind of a tired bit now.
• Scottish star Andy Murray is drawing record crowds to see him play at Wimbledon this year, and he’s up against Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round today. And if you tune in, you might want to keep your eyes peeled for Murray’s girlfriend, Kim Sears:
Mariano Rivera has given his life to Christ, even marking his glove with Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who is strengthening me.” In that spirit, he approached fellow (then-)Yankee reliever Scott Proctor and urged him to clean up his act. It took a few years, but Proctor (now out for the year for the Marlins) finally took Rivera’s advice and joined Alcoholics Anonymous for his drinking problem.
In a conversation with THE NEW YORK TIMES’ Tyler Kepner, Proctor admitted that he partied too hard and drank far too much to be his best at all times. He also told the TIMES that he doesn’t remember many family events washed away by booze. He’s now recovering from elbow surgery and alcoholism, rehabbing from both with the same intensity.
It was a slow night in the world of sports with the baseball playoffs off until Thursday, and the only football game to be found was the timeless Troy-Florida Atlantic rivalry. So let’s focus our attention on what really matters: Eli Manning’s futuristic space condo.
Eli’s guests are probably most excited by the hidden bar in the living room. It appears to be a normal column next to the wet bar–until Eli presses a button on a nearby Crestron wall panel. It then becomes James Bond-esque: The column slowly rotates and reveals a covert bar area. “I just kind of wanted the place to have a little secret,” Eli laughs.
Also included are two layers of automated shades that provide varying degrees of sunlight exposure. The place even has a computer that sets the the interior lighting to pre-programmed levels at the touch of a button. You know, for those days when you can’t even be bothered to expend the energy to flip a switch.
Unfortunately, most avenues for humor here have been completely destroyed by the fact that Eli Manning is currently the reigning Super Bowl MVP. He was a much easier target when he was losing playoff games 23-0.
In the things-that-actually-happened-last-night department, Greg Oden finally made his long-awaited debut as Portland stomped Sacramento 110-81 in the preseason opener for both teams. Oden had 13 points, five rebounds, and two blocks in 20 minutes of action. It was also the NBA debut for Portland’s Rudy Fernandez, who delivered several highlight moments to a near sell-out crowd at the Rose Garden. Even more impressive: none of the current Blazers have ever been charged with a felony.
Now for your Wednesday surgery round-up! Mariano Rivera had a calcified joint shaved in his shoulder. The shavings will be packed in a Pringles can and auctioned on eBay. He should be able to throw again in three months, and is expected to not have lasting effects. Meanwhile, Omar Vizquel had laser eye surgery. I’m sure the Giants are happy that he did this after he hit .222 for them this year. The Cubs’ Carlos Marmol got into a car accident in the Dominican Republic and had to get some stitches in his head.
Of course, Marmol could’ve just as easily ended up with a gash in his head on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium if he would’ve been anywhere near teammates who took frustrations out on the plumbing near the visiting dugout after their season-ending loss. The pipe-bashers caused a flood, according to the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES’ Chris De Luca. Brad Lidge is scheduled to tear a quad slipping in the puddle Sunday night.
• If the Dodgers do somehow win the World Series this year, let’s hope they take a cue from their 1981 counterparts and put together a four-man singing crew that rivals this one (thanks to BIG LEAGUE STEW for the video footage):
Looking in the mirror might be painful for a few days.
• The Saints have taken down a photo of the Vikings’ Chad Greenway clutching Reggie Bush’s facemask, according to PRO FOOTBALL TALK. The team claims that posting the photo didn’t have anything to do with being mad at Ed Hochuli’s crew for missing the call.
• Last, but most definitely not least, SHORT NEWS has the heartwarming tale of an injured soccer player who discarded crutches and a cast and scored the game winning goal with his injured foot…and then vomited from the overwhelming pain.