Mo Rivera, Mo Problems for the Tribe
Steve Eby | On 08, Jun 2013
Thank God that’s over.
Barring a meeting in the 2013 postseason, the Cleveland Indians are finally done with facing Yankee closer Mariano Rivera. The Indians are done facing the Yankees this season and the 19 year-long battle with one of baseball’s best is over. Rivera is unquestionably the greatest closer in baseball history, topping the all-time save list and becoming one of October’s all-time outstanding performers.
Rivera has announced that the 2013 season will be his last, and it is the final year in a career that will certainly get him inducted into The Baseball Hall of Fame on his first year of eligibility. Through Wednesday’s victory and sweep of the Indians, Rivera boasts a 76-59 career record with 629 saves and 1,139 strikeouts in 1,075 regular season games. Perhaps even more impressive are his postseason statistics, where Rivera sports an 8-1 record with a 0.70 ERA, 42 saves and five World Series rings. Both Rivera’s regular season and playoff stats are right on par with his historic stats when he faces the Indians.
Rivera has dominated the Tribe, like he has most other teams, throughout his career. Against Cleveland, Rivera has a 2-2 record with a 2.73 ERA and 31 saves. The 31 saves are more than any pitcher against the franchise besides longtime Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan, who has 32. Since 2003, Rivera has locked down 19 straight saves against the Tribe, which ties former Yankee John Wetteland and former Blue Jay Tom Henke for the longest all-time streak against the Indians. Over that same stretch, the Yankees have gone 26-0 in regular season games that Rivera has pitched against the Indians as well. The Indians .100 batting average against him in the playoffs is second lowest against any team, only bested by his .091 BAA versus the Texas Rangers. Needless to say, The Sandman is not intimidated when he sees a Cleveland uniform.
These numbers probably speak more to Rivera’s awesomeness more than Cleveland’s ineptitude, however. In fact, not all of the Tribe’s numbers against Mo are that bad by comparison. First, Cleveland’s .235 regular season BAA against Rivera is fourth highest among American League opponents (Los Angeles/Anaheim .267, Texas .252 and Boston .241). Next, Rivera’s 3.16 ERA at Jacobs/Progressive Field is second highest of any park that Rivera has played in five or more times (Angel Stadium 3.26). Finally, the Indians have scored 20 runs in 47 games against Rivera; only one less than both the Tampa Bay Rays (98 games) and Toronto Blue Jays (90 games). Considering the amazing numbers that other teams have seen, the Indians overall performances against Rivera may not be so bad. They have also put together some impressive individual games against Super Mariano.
Here are the Top Five:
5. July 14, 1997
The Indians matched up temporary starting pitcher Terry Clark against David Wells that Monday night in the Bronx, in what turned out to be the only game that Clark pitched for the Indians in which he didn’t take the loss. Behind 1-0 early, Matt Williams tied the score in the second inning with a solo homerun against Wells to tie the game at 1-1. Middle reliever (at that time) Jose Mesa then gave New York a 2-1 lead in the sixth, but the Tribe ended up tying the game off of Wells when Julio Franco lined an RBI single into right. The game went into extra innings and Rivera was called on to pitch the tenth.
Rivera’s dominance did not last long that day, as Marquis Grissom socked a solo homerun into the right field seats with one out in the top of the inning. Mike Jackson worked a perfect bottom of the tenth inning to seal a 3-2 Tribe victory.
4. July 12, 2002
In a pitcher’s duel that matched up Roger Clemens and Danys Baez, the Yanks took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning at Jacobs Field that Friday night. Ricky Gutierrez led off the inning with a single against Ramiro Mendoza, then reliever Mike Stanton got Jim Thome and Einar Diaz with two easy outs. Chris Magruder ran Stanton from the ballgame with a single to left that moved Gutierrez to second and Rivera entered the game to face Omar Vizquel.
Vizquel jumped on Rivera, grounding a ball through the left side for a single that scored pinch runner John McDonald and gave Rivera a blown save. The game eventually went into extra innings and the Indians won on an RBI triple in the 10th by Vizquel.
3. August 10, 1995
The Indians threw Charles Nagy in the first game of a doubleheader against the rookie Rivera, who made one of his 10 career starts against the Tribe in New York. Nagy struggled in the middle innings—allowing seven runs—but luckily for the Tribe, so did Rivera. The Tribe plated five runs in 5.2 innings against the rookie with the big blows being an RBI single by Albert Belle and a ground rule double by Paul Sorrento that chased Rivera from the game. The Indians won the game by a score of 10-9 when Wetteland and future Indian Bob Wickman allowed five runs to the Tribe in the ninth.
2. July 14, 2002
This is the second game on the list in the Yankees July 2002 visit to Cleveland and the fifth anniversary of the Grissom bomb. This game may also be the worst game against any opponent in Rivera’s long career.
Chuck Finley handed the Yankees a 7-0 lead that they took into the sixth inning the day before the All-Star break. Thome finally put the Tribe on the board against Yankee starter Mike Mussina when he blasted a three-run bomb that scored Vizquel and Ellis Burks. Vizquel drove home another run in the seventh that brought the Indians back to 7-4. Rivera entered in the ninth and struggled immediately.
McDonald led off the frame with a single and catcher Eddie Perez moved him to third with a base hit of his own. Magruder brought home the Indians fifth run with a fielder’s choice and Vizquel then moved him to third with another single. Burks doubled to score Magruder and Thome was intentionally walked to load the bases. Travis Fryman struck out for the second out of the inning and the only thing standing between Rivera and another save was the Indians most unlikely hero.
Utility man Bill Selby did not get the memo that Rivera was an all-time great and he was an all-time-nobody as he smacked a grand slam into the Yankees bullpen for a 10-7 Indians win. Selby galloped around the bases as the only Indian to hit a walk-off homerun against the Yankees storied closer. For the afternoon, Rivera pitched 0.2 innings and allowed six earned runs.
1. October 5, 1997
Just five days after Rivera notched his first of many postseason saves, he blew what was by far his most memorable.
The Indians were on the brink of being eliminated by the Yankees as they were down two games to one in the best of five American League Division Series and the Bombers led 2-1 heading into the eighth inning. Yankee starter Dwight Gooden was long gone from the game when Rivera was brought in with one out and nobody on in the eighth inning and Mo immediately retired Williams to put the Tribe four outs from elimination.
It was then that Sandy Alomar stepped in and smacked an opposite field homerun into the right field seats that made Jacobs Field explode in raucous excitement. The Indians had tied the game at 2-2 and ended up winning the game in the ninth when a Vizquel single off of Mendoza scored Grissom to even the series up at two games apiece. The Tribe won game five and the series the following night.
Photo: David Maxwell/EPA