Oh, Mo, 1st blown save at Stadium since 2010
Not that you would recognize it immediately on a day when the temperature peaked at 94 degrees but hell froze over Sunday.
Doesn’t it always seem that way when Mariano Rivera blows a save? The Yankees’ formula was in an ideal spot Sunday with starter Hiroki Kuroda pitching seven shutout innings of brilliance coming off a sore left hip flexor and David Robertson supplying a 1-2-3 eighth, setting it up for Mo to finish things off in the ninth, which he has done more often than any pitcher in history.
Pitching for the fifth time in seven days may have taken a toll on Rivera, who is after all 43 years old. A sign that he could not get his cutter inside enough was evident when Nick Markakis came within inches of a game-tying home run. Normally when a guy hits a ball like that he pops up the next pitch or swings through it. Markakis drilled the next pitch into center field for a single. The Orioles right fielder hit the ball hard off Rivera with two swings in one at-bat than most hitters do off him over a month.
Adam Jones had the killing blow, however, driving a 0-1 two-seamer over the left field wall. A stunned Yankee Stadium crowd of 40,218 watched a 1-0 lead suddenly evaporate. The save went instead to the Orioles’ closer, Jim Johnson, who had blown one two games ago and rebounded with a perfect ninth for save No. 30, the same number Rivera was trying to notch.
It was only the second time this season that Rivera did not convert a save opportunity. The loss ended a streak of 41 straight converted save opportunities at the Stadium for Rivera that dated to the start of the 2011 season. His previous blown a save at home was Sept. 26, 2010 to the Red Sox.
“Whenever it happens, you’re kind of shocked,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
This was a downer. The Yankees were primed to make up for getting swept last week at Camden Yards by returning the favor and adding to their six-game winning streak. The Orioles managed only three hits in seven innings off Kuroda, who walked one batter and struck out four. Rivera recognized more than anyone that this was a tough no-decision for a starting pitcher to accept.
“Kuroda pitched great and deserved to win,” Mo said. “That would have been a great one to save. I made a mistake on a professional hitter. Too bad. To do what I did. . .you can’t do that.”
“There are times like that for him, too,” Kuroda said, acknowledging that whether the Yankees like to admit it or not that Mariano is human. “There is nothing you can do about it.”
Rivera even felt bad that he may have hurt the All-Star candidacy of teammate David Robertson, who is one of the five players nominated for the Final Vote on the American League squad. As a sign of support, Mo wore his uniform stockings up above his calf the way Robertson does that led to his charity organization being named “High Socks for Hope.”
“I don’t think I helped him,” Rivera said with a rueful smile.
Asked if he would stop wearing his socks that way, Rivera said, “I have no superstitions.”
Rivera put the game squarely on his shoulders, but there was not much margin for error because the Yankees scored only one run, in the second inning on a sacrifice fly by Eduardo Nunez. All six hits for the Yankees Sunday were singles just as were all 10 of their knocks Saturday. Despite winning two of three games over Baltimore, the Yankees had only two extra-base hits – doubles both – in the series.
The Orioles got a one-out double from Matt Wieters in the second inning and a leadoff two-bagger from Markakis in the fourth but Kuroda kept them from scoring by frustrating the O’s with sinkers and splitters. Kuroda pitched at least seven innings without allowing a run for the 11th time in 51 starts since joining the Yankees in 2012, surpassing Felix Hernandez for the most such starts in the AL over the past two seasons.
The Yankees signed first baseman Travis Ishikawa off waivers from the Orioles. Ishikawa, 29, appeared in six games with the Orioles this season and batted .118 with one RBI in 17 at-bats before being designated for assignment June 29. He spent the majority of the season with Triple-A Norfolk, batting .316 with 29 runs, 16 doubles, seven home runs and 311 RBI in 49 games and 177 at-bats. Ishikawa, who bats left-handed, is a .260 career hitter over parts of six major-league seasons with the Giants, Brewers and Orioles.