With help from Jeter, Mo closes out 2001 ALDS
Captain's defensive heroics set stage for Rivera's two-inning save in Game 5
As Mariano Rivera prepares to retire, the closer's farewell tour has become a central subplot to the season. Major League Baseball's all-time saves leader has been greeted warmly in each of his road stops, and the Yankees are planning a ceremony of their own to honor Rivera's illustrious career in September.
Rivera will be the last active player to regularly wear uniform No. 42, with the number having been retired throughout MLB in 1997 to honor the achievements of barrier-breaking great Jackie Robinson. During his 19-year big league career, Rivera has also chiseled his own mark on the number's legacy. In honor of Rivera and his contributions, MLB.com is commemorating 42 notable moments from Rivera's career -- the 42 Days of Mo.
The 2001 American League Division Series is famous for a save by Derek Jeter. In one of postseason history's most storied defensive plays, Jeter raced across the field to grab an errant throw and made a backhand flip home that prevented Oakland's Jeremy Giambi from scoring the tying run in the seventh inning of Game 3.
It was on Oct. 15, 2001, at the old Yankee Stadium that Rivera shut down the A's for his 20th consecutive postseason save conversion, eight of which covered two innings. If the extra work was a problem for Rivera, it didn't show.
"You have to understand, Mariano has a fastball," manager Joe Torre told the New York Times. "He makes it do a number of things and it looked like he was throwing it 200 miles an hour in the ninth inning today. He wasn't going to be denied."
The road team had won each of the first four games of the series, but in Game 5 the Yankees grabbed a 5-3 lead through six innings. Ramiro Mendoza pitched a scoreless seventh and turned the game over to Rivera.
Jason Giambi hit a leadoff single, but Rivera induced a fielder's-choice grounder from Eric Chavez before he got some help from another famous Jeter play. This time, the captain chased a Terrence Long pop fly into foul territory, leaned into the stands, made the catch and flipped into the seats. Chavez advanced to second on the play, but Rivera retired Ron Gant to end the inning.
The ninth was a breeze. Rivera got Olmedo Saenz to ground out, caught Greg Myers looking at a third strike, then blew strike three past Eric Byrnes before celebrating with catcher Jorge Posada and their teammates.
It took all of 23 pitches, including 18 strikes. Rivera had put another series to bed.