If there was any doubt about who was the best closer in the postseason, last night proved that Mariano Rivera is the man that all managers want to send out in a close game. Last night, the Colorado Rockies lost the third game of a best-of-five series to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Looking back at the game, the blame can easily be put on the closer. Huston Street entered the game with a two-run lead and watched it vanish before his eyes. The day before that game, the Red Sox experienced a similar heart-breaking experience with their closer, Jonathan Papelbon.
Joe Nathan of the Minnesota Twins was pulverized by the New York Yankees in the Bronx. Mariano Rivera stands above all these young closers as an example of a pitcher with great success in the postseason.
Rivera has been called the greatest closer in the history of baseball. But after he retires, who is gonna be his successor as the best active closer in baseball? Recently, the closers on playoff teams have not shown the talent necessary to be considered as one of Mariano Rivera's successors.
Jonathan Papelbon's previous postseason numbers showed glimpses and resembled of a young Rivera in the Yankees 1990's dynasty. He did not give up any runs in 26 innings prior to Game Three of the 2009 ALDS.
In Game Three, he allowed two runners, inherited from Billy Wagner, to score in the eighth inning. In the ninth, the Red Sox only needed three more outs to avoid getting the broom from the Angels, but that would not happen. Papelbon let three runners score in the ninth spelling doom for Red Sox Nation.
"We all know no one's perfect, but Mo is really, really good," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi after the Yankees win in Game Three at the Metrodome. Most teams know that when the first jingles of "Enter Sandman" come through the speakers in New York, the game might as well be over. Rivera is just as good in the regular season as he is in the postseason.
In 46 opportunities, Rivera recorded 44 saves and posted a 1.74 earned run average. He earned the American League Rolaids Relief Man of the Year for the fifth time in his career, in 2009. He shared the 2009 honors with Minnesota closer and playoff disappointment, Joe Nathan.
As of Oct. 11, 2009, Mariano Rivera has posted a .74 ERA in the postseason. That is an incredible accomplishment in a pitcher's career at a point where the pressure is focused on the mound to close out a game in the playoffs. He has an even 100 strikeouts in the postseason as of the end of Game Three of the ALDS.
The Yankees are waiting for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the Bronx, and so is Rivera. The last time that Rivera faced the Angels in the postseason was in the 2005 ALDS. In that series Rivera posted a 3.00 ERA in three innings pitched.
The Yankees were unable to get out of the first-round in 2005, but the 2009 team is a completely new team. Rivera has also matured and changed a whole lot in four years since facing the Angels in 2005.
Are the Yankees worried about the upcoming Angels? The answer is no. The Yankees saw the Red Sox and the Angels at an equal level of dangerous. The Angels and Yankees split their season series 5-5, but they appear to have some mojo driving their recent success.
If there is any team that looks to be driven by destiny, it is the Angels, who are being motivated by the death of Nick Adenhart. Everything they have been doing lately has been in his honor.
The Yankees that still remain from the 1990's dynasty want to win this American League Championship Series and World Series just as badly as the Angels. Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Rivera might be ending the end of their career and this could be one of the last times that they get to experience winning a championship.
Derek Jeter also called the Yankees together earlier this month calling the Yankees to win one more for George Steinbrenner, who has drifted further and further apart from the Yankees because of his health.
The stage is set for Mariano Rivera and the New York Yankees. In the 2009 ALCS, when "Enter Sandman" comes blasting through Yankees Stadium's speakers, everyone is sure that it will send chills through the Angels' spines.