When Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera were both called up in the summer of 1995, few could have predicted the skinny shortstop and the reliever who relied so heavily on a single pitch would become two of the greatest New York Yankees ever to don the uniform.
For the past 18 seasons the Yankees have been the most dominant team in baseball qualifying for postseason play 17 times, while winning five World Series championships. Throughout this incredulous run Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera have cemented themselves in baseball lore as their consistency and clutch performances led the Yankees to victory thousands of times.
In the modern era of free agency Jeter and Rivera served as the glue holding together the core values of Yankee baseball as the team saw much turnover amongst its roster. While both players will be back in 2013, it is inevitable that in the near future the Yankees will have to move on without them.
Here is a look back at the seven greatest games of one of the most exciting eras of New York Yankees baseball.
This list was created to share with fans the seven best games from the Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera Era. For the sake of this article this era started in 1995 and continues through present day.
Each of these games represents either a series clinching or momentum changing postseason game in which the Yankees relied on game-changing exceptional performances to be victorious.
After scoring the first two runs of the game the Yankees relinquished five unanswered runs to the Padres and went into the bottom of the seventh inning trailing 5-2.
This deficit would not last long as following were two consecutive walks, Chuck Knoblach scorched a three run homer to tie the game.
Following the Knoblach home run the Yankees continued to rally bringing up first baseman Tino Martinez with the bases loaded. After a controversial ball call by umpire Rich Garcia, that could have helped the Padres out of the jam, Martinez launched a grand slam to put the Yankees in the lead for good.
Mariano Rivera would go on to close out the game in the ninth allowing the Yankees to take an early lead in the series. This heartbreaking defeat would linger in the Padres minds for the remaining three games as the Yankees decisively swept their opponent, winning their second World Series in three years.
In 2009 the Yankees relied on Alex Rodriguez’s hot bat to go along with consistent starting pitching from C.C. Sabathia, Andy Petitte, and A.J. Burnett to reach the World Series for the first time since 2003.
After a back and forth series against the power hitting Philadelphia Phillies, the Yankees were able to take a 3-2 lead back to the Bronx to try and clinch their 27th World Series championship.
In Game 6, the Yankees would send in one of their best, Andy Petitte, to the mound to face their long time nemesis, Pedro Martinez of the Phillies.
Luckily for the Bronx Bombers, Martinez proved to be far past his prime as the Yankees rocked him early to gain a 4-1 lead after four innings. In the fifth, the Yankees were able to add to their advantage with an RBI single from Mark Teixeira and a two run double from Hideki Matsui to increase their lead to 7-1.
Despite a threat from the Phillies, in the top of the sixth, the Yankees held on for a 7-3 win with the help of 1.2 scoreless innings of relief from Mariano Rivera.
Unlike some of the other games on the list, Game 6 of the 2009 World Series lacked drama and allowed the Yankees to open their new stadium with a World Series title and proved to the rest of the baseball community that Jeter, Rivera and the rest of the Yankees core could still compete at a championship level.
When the crosstown rival New York Mets entered the Bronx to take on the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the 2000 Subway Series the atmosphere surrounding Yankee Stadium could not have been more electric. The Yankees were in search of their third straight World Series championship and the only team standing in their way was their upstart neighbors.
The game featured two of baseball’s most savvy left-handers in Al Leiter and Andy Pettite, who both would go on to dazzle hitters deep into the ballgame. However both pitchers hit roadblocks in the sixth and seventh innings as the Mets took a 3-2 lead.
This lead was short lived as the Bronx Bombers scrapped a run off Mets closer Armando Benitez in the bottom of the ninth to tie the ball game and send the game into extras.
The game would progress until the 12th, where a walk-off RBI single from journeyman Jose Vizcaino gave the Yankees a dramatic one game lead in the series.
In a game that was the longest ever in World Series history, the Yankees were able to gain crucial momentum that would carry them to a five game defeat of the Mets and their third straight World Series title.
The Yankees entered the 2001 postseason as the three time reigning World Series champions and the favorites to once again take the American League pennant. However, the Oakland A’s led by their dominant starting pitching and MVP candidate Jason Giambi had other ideas in this ALDS matchup.
The Oakland A’s stormed out of the gate in the series taking the first two games at Yankee Stadium, forcing the Yankees into an elimination game in Oakland.
Luckily for the Yankees, the crafty Mike Mussina and his 3.15 ERA were on the mound. Mussina threw one of the best games in Yankees postseason history that night, tossing seven innings of shutout ball while only allowing four hits.
The most memorable moment of this game, however, was not Mussina’s outstanding effort, but the amazing glove work of Derek Jeter.
With two outs in the seventh inning with Jason Giambi on first base, A’s outfielder Terrence Long stroked a ball down the first base line. Yankee right fielder Shane Spencer recovered the ball quickly and gunned it in to try and stop Giambi from scoring. Unfortunately, Spencer badly overthrew his intended cut off man and for a brief moment it seemed like the A’s were about to score the tying run.
But the always reliable Derek Jeter used his amazing awareness to race across the infield, cut the ball off himself, and flip it to Jorge Posada at the plate to nab Giambi and save the Yankees slim lead.
Derek Jeter’s career defining play combined with Mussina’s great effort and a two-inning shut down save by Mariano Rivera enabled the Yankees to avoid elimination, starting a three game comeback to win the series and eventually take the AL pennant.
In 1996 the Yankees were finally able end their 17 year World Series drought as they faced off with the Atlanta Braves for baseball supremacy. After falling down 2-1 in the series the Yankees critically needed to win Game 4 in order to avoid an elimination game.
After a poor start from Kenny Rogers the Yankees trailed 6-0 after the fifth inning, but a Derek Jeter single in the sixth started a rally that cut the lead in half.
Going into the eighth, the Yankees still trailed by three runs when Braves’ manager Bobby Cox’s failure to trust the rest of his bullpen forced him to bring in closer Mark Wohlers prematurely. This decision would turn out poorly for Atlanta as veteran Jim Leyritz belted a slider over the fence for a three run shot, tying the game at six.
The Yankees would go on to score the winning run in the 10th on a walk to pinch hitter Wade Boggs, thus evening the series to two games a piece. This resilient comeback would inspire the Yankees to finish off the Braves over the course of the next two games, bringing a 23rd World Series title to the Bronx, and the first since 1978.
After narrowly escaping the series against the Oakland A’s and then taking down the Seattle Mariners in five games, the New York Yankees faced the formidable Arizona Diamondbacks led by aces Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson in their quest for their fourth straight World Series title.
The series did not start well for the Bombers as they lost both games in Arizona, quickly falling behind 2-0. However, the Yankees were able to rebound in game three at home with a 2 to 1 victory, setting up a pivotal Game 4 with the momentum of the entire series on the line.
Both teams received stellar efforts from their starting pitchers but the Diamondbacks were able to score two runs in the top of the eighth off the New York bullpen.
Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees were down to their final final out before Tino Martinez walloped a game tying two run home run into the night sky.
Only an inning later Derek Jeter followed Martinez’s heroics with a home run of his own winning the game for the Yankees and helping the team gain crucial momentum for the entire series.
Only one night later, the Yankees faced an identical situation in the bottom of the ninth of Game 5. Down to their final out once again, this time trailing 2-0, the Yankees leaned on Scott Brosius, who hit a clutch two run homer of his own to tie the game.
Three innings later Alfonso Soriano was the star as he delivered with an RBI single to give the Yankees the win and the series lead.
In both of these games Mariano Rivera played a critical role as he threw three combined scoreless innings in some of the most pressure packed moments of his career.
Although the Yankees would lose the series in devastating fashion in Game 7 these two games will go down as two of the most exciting games in all of Yankees’ history.
*These games were paired in this list because of their similarities and the proximity of which they were played.
The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry was at its pinnacle in the mid 2000’s as both teams constantly strove for AL East dominance and met several times in the postseason.
In 2003 the two teams competed in one of the most intense baseball series’ of the modern era as the teams even came to blows during a notorious Game 3 brawl.
With two of the best pitchers of the era on the mound in Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens, every fan expected Game 7 of this infamous series to be an absolute duel.
The Boston Red Sox were able to gain the early advantage, pouncing on Clemens for four runs in the first four innings and forcing him into a quick exit. Martinez far out pitched his counterpart throughout the game but when manager Grady Little sent him out for the eighth inning, the tired ace finally relented allowing three runs.
With the score tied at five, the game continued until the bottom of the 11th when the struggling Aaron Boone became an unlikely hero. Boone who only batted .176 throughout the series clobbered a Tim Wakefield knuckleball into the upper deck, sending the New York Yankees to the World Series and ending the hated Red Sox chances at breaking the Curse of the Bambino.
While Boone’s home run took the spotlight, Mariano Rivera tossed three scoreless innings in relief, earning him the Game 7 win and MVP of the series.