Guess which feat he was most excited about.
On a New York night that belonged to baseball’s most unflappable closer, Rivera became the second reliever to reach the 500-save milestone when the Yankees held off the punchless Mets 4-2 Sunday for a Subway Series sweep.
“I had one thing in mind—just try to do something,” Rivera said, before expounding on his save. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely special.”
In a fun twist, the 39-year-old closer even contributed offensively. The Mets walked Derek Jeter(notes) intentionally to get to Rivera with two outs, but he’s proved to be no pushover at the plate. He fouled off a 2-2 pitch from Francisco Rodriguez(notes) before working out a walk for his first career RBI.
It was the third regular-season plate appearance for Rivera—and second in five days. With his teammates yucking it up in the dugout, he flied out against Atlanta on Wednesday, when he got save No. 498.
The injury-depleted Mets managed five, their best offensive output of the three-game series. The Yankees took five of six games from their crosstown rivals this season, handing the Mets their first sweep in 13 series at their new home, Citi Field.
“He’s one of the premier closers in my time,” Mets manager Jerry Manuel said about Rivera. “I wasn’t applauding him tonight, but you do have to applaud that.”
Rivera entered with two on in the eighth and went to a full count on Omir Santos(notes) before throwing a called third strike. The right-hander pitched a one-hit ninth for his 18th save in 19 chances this season.
“He’s the definition of consistency,” Jeter said.
After the final out, Teixeira handed Rivera the game ball and the Yankees poured out of the dugout to hug him near first base.
It was the 110th time Rivera has gone more than one inning for a save. And he’s done all this with one pitch for the most part—that searing cut fastball.
The Yankees (43-32) matched a season high at 11 games over .500.
Still struggling with his command, Wang (1-6) allowed four hits and three walks in a season-high 5 1-3 innings. He was pulled with a runner on second, but Phil Coke(notes) and Phil Hughes(notes) got the Yankees out of the sixth unscathed.
Hughes worked around a leadoff walk in a hitless seventh. Brian Bruney(notes) got two outs but walked two batters before manager Joe Girardi called on Rivera, whose first save came on May 17, 1996, against the California Angels when he got Garret Anderson(notes) to ground into a game-ending double play, closing out an 8-5 victory for Andy Pettitte and the Yankees.
Girardi and Jeter each had two hits and an RBI in that game.
Following a season-ending foot injury last June, Wang has been unable to rediscover the form that made him a 19-game winner in 2006 and ’07.
His previous win was June 15 last year in Houston and he was 0-3 with a 34.50 ERA after three starts this season, then went on the disabled list for nearly a month with weakness in the adductor muscles in his hips.
After coming back, Wang made three relief appearances before returning to the rotation June 4 against Texas. His last three outings have shown gradual improvement.
NOTES: It was Rivera’s 18th regular-season save against the Mets. … Citi Field became the 26th ballpark in which Rivera has notched a save. … Johnny Damon(notes) didn’t start for the second consecutive game because of a flu bug that’s been going around the Yankees’ clubhouse. Melky Cabrera(notes) started in left field, but Damon entered in the sixth.