Mariano Rivera once again made history Saturday afternoon in Toronto, throwing a perfect ninth inning to preserve the Yankees’ 7-6 victory over Toronto, earning his 601st career save in the process and tying Trevor Hoffman for the all-time record.
That Mo was even in position to record the save was a testament to a reawakened Yankee offense and more superb work from the bullpen, which pieced together five shutout innings of work in relief of an ineffective Bartolo Colon. It’s a good thing the Blue Jays won’t be making the playoffs, as Colon — who took a 6.84 ERA against the Jays in 2011 into this game — only lasted four innings and gave up six runs, inflating his season ERA against Toronto to 7.99(!). Stripping his 21 earned runs in 23 2/3 innings against the Jays out of his ledger, he actually has a 3.06 ERA against all other opponents. Not that we can magically make those Toronto innings and runs go away, but that’s an important feather in his cap (or arrow in his quiver; whichever idiomatic expression tickles your fancy) with regards to drawing up the playoff rotation.
Down 6-1 after four innings, the Yankees would not go quietly in this one, as Alex Rodriguez punctuated his return to the lineup after a six-game absence in a big way, blasting a three-run homer in the sixth inning to bring the Yankees to within one run. Toronto rookie Henderson Alvarez wound up completing the sixth, but his final ledger 6 IP, 5 ER, 9 H, 1 BB and only one strikeout is just what the doctor ordered.
Following a perfect sixth from Aaron Laffey, Curtis Granderson took Carlos Villanueva deep on a go-ahead two-run shot to put the Yankees ahead 7-6, and that was all she wrote. While not nearly as grand-slam-tastic, this was arguably an even greater comeback than that game against the A’s last month, as the Yankees’ lowest WE in the Oakland game was 5.4% in the top of the 5th, while it fell all the way to 3.6% in the bottom of the fifth inning in this one after Jose Bautista walked to lead the frame off. At .307 WPA, the home-run represented Curtis’ second-biggest WPA swing of the season, so yeah, this was a pretty huge come-from-behind win.
The entire bullpen was stellar, as Laffey, Hector Noesi, Rafael Soriano, Mo and even Scott Proctor didn’t allow a hit to Toronto, and came one walk away from tossing five perfect innings of work. And that walk — the aforementioned Bautista walk by Proctor — was erased by a double play, so the ‘pen actually faced the minimum number of batters. That right there may have been the bullpen’s finest work all season.
Oh, and Grandy also picked up two other hits in addition to the home run and walked twice as part of a perfect day at the plate, while Mark Teixeira had a multi-hit game as well. Be great to see these two get right back to where they’re supposed to be just in time for the playoffs.
The magic number to clinch a postseason berth is now four, and the division eight, which means the Yankees could wrap their playoff spot up as soon as Monday. The Yankees go for their first series win in Toronto since May 2009 tomorrow afternoon at 1:05pm.