Results tagged ‘ Aaron Judge ’

Costly errors end successful homestand on a downer

Sloppy play, which has not been a characteristic of the Yankees this year, cost them a chance to finish off a triumphant homestand Wednesday. They were guilty of three errors, two of which came in the ninth inning that made both runs of the Dodgers’ 2-0 victory unearned.

So the Yankees finished up the homestand with a 7-3 record, but they squandered an opportunity to gain ground in the Wild Card chase on a day when Toronto lost, so they remained two games behind for the second Wild Card slot on the eve of what could be a season-shaping trip.

The Yankees take to the road for 11 games over the next 12 days — four in Boston Thursday night through Sunday, three in St. Petersburg, Fla., Tuesday through next Thursday and four in Toronto next Friday night through Monday, Sept. 26. That will leave only six games remaining in the regular season, which the Yankees will close out at home with three-game sets against the Red Sox and the Orioles.

All of which means the Yankees will have an abundance of opportunities to make up ground in the postseason hunt, but they will need to have fewer innings than Wednesday’s ninth. Two of Dellin Betances weaknesses came into play that inning and stuck him with the loss.

After reaching base on Starlin Castro’s misplay of a soft, back-spinning liner, Corey Seager took advantage of Betances’ long stride to the plate in his delivery and stole second base. Justin Turner broke up the scoreless game with a double over third base that scored Seager.

Turner alertly tagged up and crossed over to third base on Adrian Gonzalez’s flyout to deep left-center. Yasmani Grandal next hit a one-hopper right back to Betances, but the 6-foot-8 reliever made an awkward throw home that sailed over catcher Gary Sanchez’s high-stretched mitt for another damaging error.

After having shut out the Dodgers the night before on solo home runs by Jacoby Ellsbury, Didi Gregorius and Sanchez, the Yanks managed only three hits, all singles, off five L.A. pitchers in sustaining their 10th shutout loss of the season.

Clayton Kershaw, the three-time National League Cy Young Award winner and 2014 NL Most Valuable Player, made only his second start since coming off the disabled list due to herniated disks in his back, and was masterful for five innings. He allowed only one hit with no walks and five strikeouts.

The first of two rain delays shorted Michael Pineda’s outing after four innings in which he gave up two hits and two walks with five strikeouts. Tommy Layne, Luis Severino and Tyler Clippard held the Dodgers scoreless as well until Betances’ hiccup. Severino has not allowed an earned run in eight relief outing covering 18 2/3 innings. Clippard has given up one earned run over 19 innings (0.47 ERA) in his 21 appearances since joining the Yankees from the Diamondbacks.

The Yankees also lost rookie outfielder Aaron Judge likely for the remainder of the regular season. Judge has a strained right oblique, a condition that is slow to heal. The Yankees called up from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre outfielder Mason Williams, who played right field in the last two innings after Rob Refsnyder was lifted in the seventh for pinch hitter Brian McCann.

The Yankees finished the season 8-12 in inter-league play. It was just their fourth non-winning record against NL clubs in 20 seasons of inter-league play. The Yanks were also 9-11 in 2013, 9-9 in 1999 and 5-10 in 1997, the first year of inter-league play.

They have a 16-3-1 inter-league series mark and are 45-31 (.592) in inter-league match-ups at the current Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009. They are 6-7 in inter-league competition against the Dodgers, one of only two clubs against which the Yankees have losing records. They are also 13-14 against the Phillies.

Wild night at Dodger, er, Yankee Stadium

The Yankees find fans all over the map as they travel around North America during the season. The boosters are akin to Notre Dame’s famed subway alumni.

I recall a game at Anaheim in the early 1990s when Don Mattingly came off the bench at whacked a pinch-hit, three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning that pushed the Yankees into the lead of a game they eventually won. As Mattingly rounded the bases, the cheers from the Big A’s stands were so loud you would have sworn you were in the Bronx, which is about as far from Orange County, California, as you can get.

Whatever the venue, be it Baltimore’s Camden Yards, certainly Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field or even Boston’s Fenway Park, pockets of Yankees fans abound in the stands. Well, a collection of boisterous Dodgers fans gave the Yankees at taste of their own medicine Monday night at Yankee Stadium in the opener of a three-game, inter-league series.

A cluster of Dodgers fans filled a sizeable portion of the seats along the third base to left field line. The group went even so far as to mimic the roll call of the Yankees’ bleacher creatures but by calling out the names of the Dodgers instead. When the Dodgers rallied for a run right off the bat in the first inning, it seemed more like Dodger Stadium than Yankee Stadium.

Yankees fans finally responded with loud boos when fans near the left field foul pole unveiled a blue “LA” banner amid a three-run rally by the Dodgers.

There is plenty of history between these clubs. After all, they have been paired in 11 World Series, the most of any two teams. When the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn prior to 1958, they faced the Yanks seven times in the Series and won only once, in 1955. Since they made Southern California home, the Dodgers split four Series against the Yankees, winning in 1963 and ’81 and losing in 1977 and ’78.

Unfortunately, the Yankees did not give their fans much reason to retaliate in the 8-2 loss that caused them to lose ground in the Wild Card race. The Yanks remained two games behind the Orioles and dropped a game behind the Tigers for the second Wild Card berth.

It was a rough night for the Baby Bombers. Right fielder Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez made errors that led to runs. Starting pitcher Bryan Mitchell could not get out of the third inning, although four of the six runs against him were not earned, due to the two errors. Tyler Austin wore the golden sombrero with four strikeouts. The most effective Yankees pitcher was lefthander Richard Bleier, who tossed four shutout innings of hitless relief. He walked one batter, hit one and struck out three.

The Yankees’ runs came on two long home runs. Starlin Castro’s 21st dinger of the season landed in the second deck in left field in the second inning. Judge bashed a 432-foot bomb into the left-center field bleachers in the fifth. The Dodgers countered with late-inning home runs by Yasiel Puig and Justin Turner, to the absolute delight of the Dodgers Blue crowd than drowned out Yankees Universe at least for one night.

Yanks won’t catch Orioles this weekend

The Yankees had gotten use to hopping over contenders for a wild card playoff berth in recent weeks. They did so to the Mariners and to the Royals and we’re hoping to do the same to the Orioles this weekend.

Not going to happen.

Baltimore threw nine more zeroes against the Yankees Saturday night for its second straight shutout. Not surprisingly, Orioles righthander Kevin Gausman had his way with the Yanks as he has had much of the season. Gausman is 7-10 overall but 2-1 with a 0.80 ERA in 33 2/3 inning against the Yankees. In his career against the Yanks, Gausman is 5-3 with a 1.87 ERA in 72 1/3 innings.

Gausman has pitched 13 scoreless innings with 17 strikeouts in his past two starts against the Yankees. He held them to two singles through six innings Saturday night with eight strikeouts, the biggest of which was against Starlin Castro with the bases loaded in the fourth inning. Brian McCann followed with a soft fly ball to center field that ended the only real rally the Yanks could mount in the game. They have had six hits, all singles, over the past two nights against Baltimore pitching.

It was a tough loss for CC Sabathia, who gave up two runs (one earned) over six innings. An error by rookie right fielder Aaron Judge led to the first run off Sabathia in the fourth. The next inning, Adam Jones connected with two out for his 25th home run of the season and the fifth by the Orioles in the series.

The Yankees’ third consecutive shutout loss to Baltimore dropped them 4 1/2 games behind the O’s for that second wild card spot. In addition, the Royals were in position to move ahead of the Yankees again.

Judge gets back to making contact

In earning American League Player of the Week honors each of the past two weeks, catcher Gary Sanchez has made it seem easy to break into the major leagues. Conversely, outfielder Aaron Judge has been an example of how tough it can be for a player to make the leap from minors to majors.

Judge got off to an impressive start with a monster home run off to center field at Yankee Stadium in his first major-league at-bat and home runs in each of his first two games. But the going got rough after that.

Entering play Tuesday night at Kansas City, Mo., Judge was in stretches of 4-for-30 (.133) and 2-for-25 (.080). He had struck out 22 times in 46 at-bats, at least once in 14 of his 15 games for the Yankees and had multiple strikeouts in seven games.

With a player who stands 6-foot-7, the strike zone is much larger than most players. Yankees manager Joe Girardi has displayed patience by playing Judge regularly and near the bottom of the lineup to relieve pressure.

The Yankees can live with the strikeouts if Judge does what he did Tuesday night by clocking a two-run home run in the second inning off Edinson Volquez to provide Mashiro Tanaka an early lead.

With a single in the third inning, Didi Gregorius extended his hitting streak to 11 games, the longest for the Yankees this year. Brian McCann had hit in 10 straight twice. Before the rain delay, left fielder Brett Gardner came to Tanaka’s rescue with two terrific plays. He made an accurate throw to second base to cut down Alcides Escobar trying for a double and followed that with a leaping catch at the wall of a drive by Christian Colon.

Congratulations to Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre outfielder Ben Gamel, who was named the 2016 International League Player of the Year. Gamel, 24, has a slash line of .309/.366/.422 with 78 runs, 26 doubles, five triples, six home runs, 51 RBI and 19 stolen bases in 115 games and 479 at-bats for the RailRiders. Gamel leads the IL in runs and ranks third in hits, fifth in steals and sixth in batting average. Gamel was one of four RailRiders to make the IL Postseason All-Star Team, along with Sanchez, Judge and second baseman Donovan Solano. Al Pedrique was named IL Manager of the Year for leading the RailRiders to an 84-52 (.618) record and a postseason berth.

The Yankees added two more prospects with the acquisition of outfielder Tito Polo and pitcher Stephen Tarpley, the players to be named that completed the Aug. 1 trade of pitcher Ivan Nova to the Pirates.

Polo, 22, hit .289 with 86 runs, 17 doubles, three triples, 16 home runs, 65 RBI, 37 stolen bases, a .360 on-base percentage and an .811 OPS (on-base plus slugging) in 109 games and 439 at-bats combined between two Class A teams, Bradenton (55 games) and West Virginia (54) this season and was selected as a South Atlantic League Midseason All-Star. Originally signed by Pittsburgh as a non-drafted free agent March 12, 2012, the right-handed hitter led all Pirates minor leaguers with 46 stolen bases in 2015. In 355 career minor league games and 1,249 at-bats, the San Andres Islas, Colombia, native has hit .271 with 223 runs, 55 doubles, 15 triples, 26 homers, 158 RBI, 130 stolen bases and a .352 on-base percentage.

Tarpley, 23, was 6-4 with a 4.32 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 100 innings in 20 starts with Bradenton. Over four minor league seasons, the lefthander has a 20-14 record with a 3.32 ERA and 280 strikeouts in 303 1/3 innings in 60 games (59 starts). Tapley was originally selected by the Orioles in the third round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft and was acquired by the Pirates, along with left-handed pitcher Steven Brault, in exchange for outfielder Travis Snider Jan. 27, 2015.

Another Tanaka gem gets Girardi 800th Yankees win

Joe Girardi has been insisting since Alex Rodriguez was released nearly two weeks ago that the Yankees “have a shot,” which has been his way of saying his team can contend for a playoff berth. In chalking up his 800th victory as Yankees manager Wednesday at Seattle, Girardi got his club closer to that goal.

It is still a tall order, yet the Yanks’ 5-0 victory over the Mariners that completed a 4-2 trip to the West Coast was encouraging. The Yankees got back to their season-high four games over .500 and won a series over one of the club’s ahead of them in the race for the second wild-card slot.

Another contender, Baltimore, will come to Yankee Stadium for a three-game series starting Friday night to give the Yankees another opportunity to gain ground. All but three of the Yankees’ remaining 36 games are against American League East teams.

All year long, Girardi has fielded questions about how much better Masahiro Tanaka is when he gets extra rest. Well, Tanaka pitched on regular rest Wednesday and could not have been better. The righthander shut out the Mariners on six hits and a walk (his only one in his past 36 innings) with five strikeouts in winning his fourth straight start. Over that period Tanaka has pitched to a 1.63 ERA with 22 hits allowed, one walk and 25 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings. He also improve his career mark against the Mariners to 5-0 with a 1.95 ERA in 37 innings.

Tanaka’s pairing with Hisashi Iwakuma was a marquee event in Seattle that drew a crowd of 41,546 to Safeco Field and was broadcast to Japan. Tanaka prevailed against his former teammate for the second time this season. The other occasion was a 4-3 Yankees victory April 17 at Yankee Stadium. Tanaka and Iwakuma played together for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles from 2007-11.

It marked the 13th game in major league history featuring two Japanese-born starting pitchers and the sixth time that the Yankees have been involved in such a matchup, the most of any team. The Yanks are 5-1 in those games). It is the fifth such game involving Seattle. The Yankees and Mariners were also involved in the very first meeting between Japanese starters May 7, 1999 when Hideki Irabu and the Yankees defeated Mac Suzuki and the Mariners, 10-1, at the Stadium.

Tanaka’s catcher, rookie Gary Sanchez, continued his torrid hitting with a solo home run in the first inning that staked his pitcher to a 1-0 lead. Sachez also doubled and drew two intentional walks to complete a trip in which he batted .455 with three doubles, four home runs and five RBI in 22 at-bats.

There were contributions up and down the lineup as every Yankees player reached base. Tyler Austin ended a 0-for-13 slump with an RBI single that scored Aaron Judge, who had been hit by a pitch but ended up with a brutal game (three strikeouts, one ground into double play). Brett Gardner celebrated his 33rd birthday by driving in a run and scoring two. Ronald Torreyes singled, his ninth hit in 16 at-bats (.563) with four doubles, one homer and three RBI on the trip. Mark Teixeira drove in a run with a single and Starlin Castro with a sacrifice fly. Dellin Betances bailed Tyler Clippard out of a jam in the eighth and notched his sixth save.

All of that helped Girardi become the sixth manager in Yankees history to reach the 800-victory mark. He joined Joe McCarthy (1,460), Joe Torre (1,173), Casey Stengel (1,149), Miller Huggins (1,067) and Ralph Houk (944).

Sabathia, Ellsbury show kids how it’s done

With all the attention focused on minor league call-ups who have brought new energy to the Yankees, it was encouraging to see a couple of veterans come up big Tuesday night in the 5-1 victory over the Mariners.

CC. Sabathia bounced back from that weird 12-strikeout, seven-run outing last week against the Blue Jays to subdue an equally robust Seattle lineup. The lefthander gave up one run, which was slightly tainted at that, and three hits with one walk and seven strikeouts in seven innings, the fifth time this season he has gone that long.

Jacoby Ellsbury had another strong defensive game in center field and gave Sabathia a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning when he followed a leadoff double by Ronald Torreyes with his sixth home run of the season. Jake’s jack came one pitch after he fouled a ball off his right foot, so he did not have to run that hard around the bases. He did run hard tracking down long fly balls in the seventh and ninth innings.

The Mariners’ only run came in the third. Leonys Martin was credited with a triple on a drive into the right field corner that was somewhat misplayed by rookie Aaron Judge, who had just made an outstanding catch in the same area on a fly ball by Adam Lind. Martin came home on a single through a drawn-in infield by Ketel Marte, which at that point tied the score.

Ellsbury unlocked the tie two innings later, and the Yankee tacked on runs in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Judge and in the ninth on a double by Didi Gregorius. Torreyes, who had a four-hit game at the start of the West Coast swing last Friday night at Anaheim, got another start at third base and had three hits, including two doubles, and has lifted his season batting average to .278.

Mac, Gardy join youth corps to beat Angels again

The Yankees’ youth movement continued to pay early dividends Saturday night in a 5-1 victory over the Angels, although not all the faces who made important contributions were that fresh. Some hearty veterans did their part as well.

The Yanks came within an inning of their second straight shutout against an Angels club lingering in last place in the American League West. The Angels finally got on the board when Albert Pujols hit the first pitch Dellin Betances offered in the bottom of the ninth inning to left field for his 583rd career home run, which tied him with former Cardinals teammate Mark McGwire for 10th place on the all-time list.

That has been the only run given up in Anaheim by the Yankees, who have a chance not only to sweep this series in the finale Sunday but also the season series. They swept the Halos in a four-game set at Yankee Stadium in early June.

Luis Cessa limited the Angels to two hits, both singles, in pitching one batter into the seventh inning in his first major-league start. Obtained with fellow rookie Chad Green, who will start Sunday, from the Tigers in an off-season traded for reliever Justin Wilson, Cessa walked only one batter and struck out five to boost his record to 3-0 and lower his earned run average from 5.30 to 4.01.

The Yankees provided Cessa a 3-0 lead before he took the mound beginning with a solo home run by his catcher, Gary Sanchez, that started a two-out rally against Angels starter Ricky Nolasco. Youthful veterans Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro kept the line moving with a single and double, respectively, before the more grizzled vet Brian McCann, who has settled in nicely as the designated hitter, drove both runners home with a single.

Big Mac was also part of the Yankees’ two-run sixth in which he put himself into scoring position with a stolen base, a first since 2012 for the weary-legged catcher by trade. After his single sent Castro, who had also singled, to third base, McCann took off to the surprise of Nolasco and swiped second. And Big Mac was not finished running. He barreled his way home on a single to right field by Aaron Judge, another newcomer from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre who has made a positive early impression.

McCann has been used as the DH to give the Yanks a long look at Sanchez behind the plate. He worked smoothly with Cessa and also showed off his strong arm by throwing out Kole Calhoun at first base in the sixth inning when the Angels right fielder drifted too far off the bag.

The fielding gem of the game, however, came from left fielder Brett Gardner, who had a brutal game offensively (0-for-5) but more than made up for it with his circus catch in the seventh to rob C.J. Cron of a home run. Gardner leaped high, reached over the wall and had to contend with two glove-wearing fans to haul in Cron’s drive and somehow kept his balance by leaning his lower back across the top of the fence.

It was a remarkable play on another remarkable night in Anaheim for a Yankees team trying awfully hard to get back into playoff contention.

Yankees hope Angel Stadium is heaven sent

After dropping the final two games of the recent homestand, the Yankees need to take advantage of a sliding Angels club to get back into contention. The Yankees, who open a three-game set at Anaheim Friday night, swept the Angels in a four-game series at Yankee Stadium June 6-9, the Bombers’ first four-game sweep of the Halos since July 21-24, 1994.

The Yankees are 16-5 in the last 21 games between the teams since June 16, 2013 and have won or split their last eight season series against the Angels since 2009 with a 35-24 record in that span. The Yanks are 4-3 in their past seven games at Angel Stadium ut 9-12 in Orange County since 2010. Their 16-30 record at the Big ‘A’ since 2005 is their worst (.348) at any American League yard in that span. The Yankees have lost 12 of 15 series in Anaheim since 2005, including seven straight series losses from July 21, 2005 through July 12, 2009.

Rookie catcher Gary Sanchez, who batted cleanup Wednesday afternoon, was moved into the 3-hole Friday night. Sanchez has three home runs in his past two games and four homers over his past four games. He had multiple hits in all three games against the Blue Jays in which he had 7-for-10 with three runs, three homers, five RBI and two walks. In his past seven games, Sanchez has a slash line of .481/.517/1.037 with seven runs, five homers and eight RBI in 27 at-bats.

Batting cleanup Wednesday for the first time in his career, Sanchez hit a solo home run. At 23 years, 259 days old, he was only the third Yankees player since 1975 to start in the cleanup spot before turning 24, joining Jay Buhner (23 years, 52 days) Oct. 4, 1987 against the Orioles and Don Mattingly (23years, 102 days) July 31, 1984 against the Brewers. The YES Network noted that Sanchez was the youngest Yankees player to homer out of the No. 4 spot in the starting lineup since Bobby Murcer (23 years, 101 days) Aug. 29, 1969.

In the cleanup spot Friday night was Brian McCann as the designated hitter. McCann entered play having hit safely in 15 consecutive road games and batting .350 with five homers and nine RBI in 60 at-bats during the streak, the longest by a Yankees player since the franchise record 44-gamer on the road by Derek Jeter from Aug. 20, 2006 through May 28, 2007.

Rookie right fielder Aaron Judge has a slash line of .389/.450/.778 with three runs, one double, two homers and four RBI in his first five major league games totaling 18 at-bats.

Yankees starting to growl in dog days

The Yankees are trying to convince their American League East rivals that they are not out of contention. The Yanks made a very convincing argument Monday night in a 1-0 victory over the first-place Blue Jays.

OK, maybe convincing is overstating it a mite. The Yankees had a miserable night of it with runners in scoring position (2-for-18) and left 14 runners on base. It was their highest number of runners left on base in a 1-0 victory since July 4, 1925 when they stranded 15 against the Philadelphia Athletics. But in games like this, pitching becomes paramount, and pitching the Yankees got.

One night after Luis Severino struggled against the Rays, another young pitcher, Chad Green, had a terrific outing. The righthander flirted with a perfect game into the fifth inning when he lost it but pitched out of a jam to maintain the one-run lead.

Troy Tulowitzki broke up the perfecto bid with a single to left field. Darrell Ceciliani then ripped a double into the right field corner, which put Green into trouble for the first time. He handled it with authority by striking out Justin Smoak and Melvin Upton Jr.

That was the only inning the Blue Jays reached base against Green (2-2), who retired the side in order in his other five innings. He got three strikeouts apiece in three innings and totaled 11 in his six innings. The Yankees got 1-2-3 innings from Tyler Clippard in the seventh and Adam Warren in the eighth before Dellin Betances (fifth save) walked the wire in the ninth.

A leadoff walk to .155-batting, 9-hole hitter Josh Thole and a one-out single by Josh Donaldson gave Toronto runners on the corners with one out and the dangerous Edwin Encarnacion (33 home runs, 97 RBI) at the plate. Encarnacion made solid contact on the first pitch, but his hard ground ball to third baseman Chase Headley was turned into a game-ending, around-the-horn double play.

Talk about walking the wire, R.A. Dickey did the same in his five innings of work. The knuckleballer gave up four hits and four walks but repeatedly worked out of danger. The Yankees had the first two batters on base in both the first and second innings and could not get them home.

They finally broke through in the fourth when Aaron Judge followed two walks with a double to right-center. Judge is the first player in Yankees history to get an extra-base hit in each of his first three career games.

The Yankees posed another threat in the fifth when Headley led off with a double, but Dickey (8-13) once again turned them away. Against the Toronto bullpen, the Yanks failed to capitalize on bases-loaded situations in the sixth and the eighth. They had three at-bats with runners in scoring position in six different innings and were successful only twice with one of the hits failing to drive in a run.

The victory put the Yankees 5 1/2 games out of first place in the AL East, although they remained 4 1/2 games behind for the second wild-card berth as the Red Sox also won in Cleveland. Still, the addition of the new, young talent has had an uplift on the field and in the clubhouse. The Yankees are showing some bite in the dog days of August.

Severino should learn from Rivera’s example

It would have been an ideal situation if Dellin Betances came to the mound in the ninth inning Sunday to nail down a save on the same day Major League Baseball’s career saves leader, Mariano Rivera, was honored by the Yankees with a plaque in Monument Park.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, there was nowhere near a save situation for Betances as they lost a chance to pay the Rays back for that sweep in St. Petersburg, Fla., two weekend ago with a 12-3 loss that fell under the category of growing pains.

It certainly was a painful start for Luis Severino, whose record fell to 1-7 with a 7.19 ERA, in an erratic outing. He struck out seven batters in 3 2/3 innings but also allowed eight hits, including two home runs, and seven earned runs. Minutes after the game’s end, the Yankees optioned the righthander to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to continue to sort out his problems.

In watching Severino struggle, I could not help but see a possible connection to Rivera, who also had trying moments as a starter for the Yankees early in his career before finding a home in the back end of the bullpen. In three relief outings over 8 1/3 innings, Severino has allowed one run, and it was not earned. His ERA as a starter is 8.58. Could his future be in the pen?

“We are still looking at him as a starter,” manager Joe Girardi said, “but time will tell.”

It was not a good time for anyone named Luis Sunday. Luis Cessa was rocked for five earned runs and five hits in three innings. It was a much different picture for the youth corps from Saturday’s uplifting victory. Aaron Judge hit another home run, and Gary Sanchez also went deep, but it was a subdued day for the Yanks overall.

The positive aspect for the crowd of 41,473 at Yankee Stadium was the ceremony for Rivera, who joined other team immortals in Monument Park. Former teammates David Cone, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Paul O’Neill and Jorge Posada; former manager Joe Torre; former pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre; former trainer Gene Monahan and current trainer Steve Donohue took part in the ceremony along with managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, his wife Cristina and sister Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.

“Some closers are great, but nobody was like that,” Steinbrenner said in the hallway outside the clubhouse. “So to have kind of a sure thing was something that we never took for granted, but we certainly became comfortable with it, then all of the sudden he retires, and it’s a whole different world.”

Among accomplishments listed on Mo’s plaque was his records for saves (652) and games finished (952) and a remarkable postseason earned run average of 0.70 in 141 innings and an appropriate total of saves, 42, matching his uniform number that was retired last year.

“It’s amazing, thinking about all of the people out there in Monument Park, starting with Babe Ruth,” Rivera said after the ceremony. “You have Mickey [Mantle], you have Mr. Joe DiMaggio and my favorite Yogi Berra, and the list is going on and on. And then me, a humble guy from Puerto Caimito, Panama, being in that group of men means a lot.”

Rivera is the ninth pitcher to have a plaque in Monument Park. He joined Hall of Famers Lefty Gomez, Whitey Ford, Red Ruffing and Goose Gossage, along with Stottlemyre, Pettitte, Ron Guidry and Allie Reynolds.

As he was leaving the clubhouse area to rejoin his family, Mo told me a story I had never heard before. It seems that about a month after the Yankees won the 1998 World Series to complete that dominant 125-50 season (counting their 11-2 postseason mark), Rivera went to the Instructional League in Tampa to work with Stottlemyre.

“Mel wanted to help me work on using fewer pitches to get through innings,” Rivera said. “He emphasized me not trying to strike everybody out but to move the ball around the strike zone to get ahead in the count and make the hitters take more defensive swings. Mel was a great influence on my career.”

That episode in Rivera’s career says all there needs to be said about his devotion to his craft. The Yankees had just completed one of the most incredible seasons any team put together, and there was one of the club’s most important figures going back to the drawing board to make himself even better. That is why Mo earned that plaque.