Mariano Rivera's First Post-Season Appearance Was Long but Typical
Ken Griffey Jr. had just hit a home run in the top of the 12th inning off John Wettland to give the Seattle Mariners a 5-4 lead. When Edgar Martinez singled, New York Yankees' manager Buck Showalter had seen enough.
Mariano Rivera made his first appearance in post-season play. The date was Oct. 4, 1995. Rivera struck out Jay Buhner.
Jeff Nelson struck out Randy Velarde for the first out in the Yankees' half of the 12th inning, but he walked Wade Boggs. Jorge Posada (that's not a typographical error) ran for Boggs.
Tim Belcher took over for Nelson to face Bernie Williams. Belcher walked Williams but retired Paul O'Neill for the second out. The batter was Ruben Sierra.
Posada and Williams took their leads, Belcher delivered and Sierra doubled to left to tie the game, but Williams was thrown out at home to end the inning. Rivera went to the mound to start his first full inning of playoff baseball.
He retired Doug Strange, Tino Martinez and Alex Diaz in order. The Yankees failed to score in the 13th.
Showalter stayed with Rivera in the 14th inning. Mariano struck out Felix Fermin, Chris Widger and soon-to-be Game 5 nemesis Luis Sojo.
The Yankees didn't score in the 14th inning.
Showalter stayed with Rivera for the 15th inning. After Griffey Jr. flied out to Williams in center field, Edgar Martinez and Buhner hit consecutive singles to put Mariners on first and second with one out.
Rivera, as Mel Allen might have said, reached back for a little extra and stuck out Strange for the second out. Tino Martinez was the batter. Yankees fans know that retiring Tino with the game on the line was not easy.
Rivera checked the runners and delivered. Martinez hit a fly ball to center field. Williams made the catch and the inning was over with the score still 5-5.
Belcher started his third inning of work by getting Don Mattingly to ground out to shortstop. Pat Kelly walked and Jim Leyritz, who today is more famous for his home run off Mark Wohlers in the fourth game of the 1996 World Series, hit a home run to win the game.
Rivera had worked 3.1 innings. He gave up only a pair of hits and no runs and struck out five of the 12 batters he faced. It was the first of what would become only eight post-season wins (two in the ALDS, four in the ALCS and two in the World Series).
The appearance was longer than what would become the usual for Rivera, but even in his first season, teams found it almost impossible to score against Rivera.
It's too bad that Showalter didn't trust the young Rivera enough to allow him to try to get out of his own jam in the ninth inning of the fifth game of that series.
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