Last night, Mariano Rivera blew his 14th regular-season save against the Red Sox (his 16th overall against the Red Sox including the post-season). This prompted Jordan Schwartz of the Bleacher Report to say that "few can argue that Mo has been anything other than mediocre against the Red Sox in his career."
I disagree. No, I not only disagree, I vehemently disagree.
Rivera has been the Yankees' full-time closer since 1997 (this is his 15th season holding that position). The Yankees face the Red Sox at least 18 times a season and in 15 years, Mariano has blown 14 saves against them. That's only one a season.
For his career against the Red Sox, Rivera is 12-7 with a 2.90 ERA, a WHIP of 1.217, 107 strikeouts, 32 walks and 52 saves (14 blown saves) in 105 games. Rivera has only pitched in more games against the Baltimore Orioles.
Rivera averages about seven appearances a year in the regular season against the Boston Red Sox, so that means he gets about six saves a year against them. Seeing how you have to win 10 games a year to win the season-series against the Red Sox, Rivera basically locks down more than half of what the Yankees need.
In most years, the AL East has been decided by the season-series between these two teams. I'll gladly take a guaranteed six of the necessary 10 wins any season with Mariano coming out of the bullpen.
In his article, Mr. Schwartz also says: "When you face a good-hitting team six or seven times a year and you only throw one pitch, batters are going to catch on."
Well, Mr. Schwartz, that one pitch has allowed Mariano to become the greatest closer in baseball history. Yes, he doesn't pitch as many innings as the closers of old, such as Goose Gossage or Bruce Sutter (he still gets more four-out saves than any other closer has since he became the full-time closer), but his career ERA of 2.22, career WHIP of 1.002 and 588 saves show that one-pitch was pretty effective.
Facing the Red Sox does mean he has to work harder and pitch better because the majority of the Red Sox players have seen him many, many times. That doesn't mean when he does fail, he's a "mediocre pitcher" against them. It simply means he either had an off night or they had a good night.
The great thing about baseball is that just because Mariano blew the save last night doesn't mean he can't go out and save the next 10 straight against the Red Sox.
The one thing I do know is that if it's Game Seven of the ALCS and the Red Sox and Yankees are tied in the ninth inning (or the Yankees are winning), the pitcher I want on the mound is Mariano Rivera.
I guess Mr. Schwartz forgot that fateful night in October in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS when Mariano came out of the bullpen in the ninth and pitched three shutout innings and the Yankees ended up winning in the bottom of the eleventh.
If the game is on the line, there is simply no other closer in the history of baseball that you want on the mound than Mariano Rivera. He may blow a save here and there, but he still gives the Yankees the best chance to finish the game with the win and that's all what matters.
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