06/14/2003 5:32 PM ET
Yankees notes: A special save
Rivera thrilled to close out Clemens' 300th win
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By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Mariano Rivera stood on the mound, one out away from nailing down Roger Clemens' 300th victory. All that stood between Rivera and history was Miguel Cairo, the Cardinals' second baseman.
Rivera, whom Clemens referred to after the game as his "equalizer," got Cairo to hit a weak ground ball to first base, where Jason Giambi scooped it up and stepped on first, completing Clemens' date with destiny.
"It was good. I was really happy to go out there and save that game for Clemens," Rivera said. "I wanted to be a part of that. I am glad that I had a chance to pitch and finish it off for him."
This has been a strange season for Rivera, who has now saved 29 of Clemens' 300 career wins, more than any other closer. After starting the season on the disabled list with a groin injury, Rivera rejoined the team as its slide began, leaving him with few save opportunities.
As a result, Rivera was inconsistent when called upon, most notably May 28, when he allowed two runs on five hits, blowing a game against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.
Recently, Rivera has been given more opportunities to show his stuff, and he has responded by converting all four save opportunities he's had in June, including Clemens' 300th.
"We're not looking for strikeouts from Mo, we're looking for low-pitch outs," said manager Joe Torre. "That's been his signature. Sure, he's struck out his share of people, but for the most part, he's gotten some ugly little outs. He's getting swings early in the count, which means he's around the zone more."
Rivera said Friday night wasn't quite as intense for him as a World Series game, but he admitted that it wasn't too far off.
"It was close to that, but it wasn't quite that," Rivera said. "The playoffs are huge here. The stadium had a lot of people last night, and it was loud at the end. It was a huge game for Roger and for us."
Memorable night: Derek Jeter has been a part of some memorable games in his eight seasons with the Yankees, including four World Series clinchers, two perfect games and another no-hitter. So where does Clemens' 300th win rank?
"I'm not going to be on the field for someone winning their 300th game again, and I'm not going to be there for someone's 4,000th strikeout again. It was memorable," Jeter said. "It's up there with the perfect games. The only difference is the buildup. With the perfect games, you don't know about it until the sixth inning. This has been building up for two or three weeks."
Jeter was impressed with the 55,214 fans who sat through steady rains Friday night, turning a June night in the Bronx into an October-like atmosphere.
"The fans were outstanding. They were in it from the first pitch. The fans get credit for making it a playoff-type atmosphere," Jeter said. "It was almost like a no-hitter, because the game was close. Before we scored those two late runs, it was intense."
While Jeter and the Yankees said all along Clemens' quest for 300 wasn't a distraction to the team, the captain said Saturday that he was happy to see the Rocket move on with his season after reaching his milestone.
"I'm definitely glad it's over with," Jeter said. "Now, he doesn't have to deal with it, because it had to be a distraction to him. With flying everyone around, the buildup every time he pitched, the cameras, the questions, it's good that it's over now."
Torre, who has been in baseball for more than 40 years, said Friday's game will rank among his most memorable as well.
"Game 6 of the 1996 World Series will always be first and foremost for me," Torre said. "And when you consider what went on here in the 2001 World Series, it's tough to top what went on those last two nights here. We haven't had that feeling here for a couple of years, and last night was terrific.
"You don't realize how happy you are to get it over with until it's over with," he added. "It will be nice to get on with the rest of the year."
Warm welcome: Tino Martinez stepped to the batter's box immediately following Clemens' strikeout of Edgar Renteria, the 4,000th of his career. The fans, already going crazy, received their former hero with a standing ovation, with shouts of "Tino! Tino!" coming down from the upper deck.
"It was more than I expected," Martinez said. "It was phenomenal. I knew that I'd get an ovation for the work I've done here, but that was way beyond my expectations."
"This is Tino's home," said Torre. "He was here for six years and five World Series. That's pretty good. I was pretty touched when they gave him that standing ovation. I know he was, too."
Clemens proceeded to strike out his former teammate on three pitches, the 4,001st K of his career.
"Then they cheered when he struck out," Torre said. "That's the fan coming out in everybody."
Although the Cardinals were the victims, Martinez had nothing but good things to say about Clemens and his latest achievement.
"It's definitely amazing," Martinez said. "The hard work he puts into it, the effort he's put into it, to stay healthy and maintain that level of dominance throughout the years is amazing."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.