NEW YORK – New York Yankees closing relief ace Mariano Rivera set a Major League Baseball record with his 602nd career save, throwing a perfect ninth inning on Monday to complete a, 6-4, victory over Minnesota.
Two days after the 41-year-old Panamanian right-hander equaled the all-time saves mark set by Trevor Hoffman, he baffled the Twins′ final three batters for his 43rd save of the year and 14th consecutive converted save opportunity.
“This moment is great,” Rivera said. “It has been wonderful. My team has been wonderful. We won. That′s the most important thing.”
The Yankees jumped ahead 5-0 after three innings before Minnesota rallied within a run, then added an insurance run in the sixth to set the stage for Rivera’s bid at history.
In the top of the ninth inning, Minnesota′s Trevor Plouffe grounded out to second base and Michael Cuddyer flew out to right field to build the drama.
Rivera managed the final bow himself, striking out Chris Parmelee to finish off his quest for the record. Parmelee watched the called third strike rocket past him into the catcher’s glove to complete the feat.
“I never dreamed about this,” Rivera said. “From Panama to now, it was a tremendous journey. It’s wonderful to be number one. My whole country is supporting me. I thank them for that.”
A raucous crowd stood during the entire ninth inning at Yankee Stadium and roared with delight after Rivera made the final out. Teammates ran and hugged him to celebrate.
Asked if he felt like the greatest relief pitcher of all time, Rivera was humble and praised the teammates whose fielding and hitting put him in position to be the most devastating last-inning pitcher in major league history.
“I don’t know if I’m the greatest. I consider myself a man blessed,” Rivera said. “All I can say is ‘Thank God for my teammates.’ They gave me the opportunities. I would never talk about myself. It’s impossible.”
For his 17-season major league career, all of it with the Yankees, Rivera is 75-57 with a 2.22 earned-run average over 1,209 innings.
Rivera has been part of five Yankees teams that won World Series titles, helping spark the legendary squad to crowns in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009.