10/11/2003 10:26 PM ET
Torre's gotta go to Mo
BOSTON -- That Mariano Rivera was needed for two innings of relief Saturday night shouldn't have much of an impact, if any, on his availability for the rest of the American League Championship Series.
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
If Rivera is needed for another inning or two Sunday and Monday in Games 4 and 5 at Fenway Park, expect him to be in there. That's the way he wants it. It's also appears to be the only option New York skipper Joe Torre sees as viable with the game on the line in the late innings.
Rivera pitched the eighth and ninth innings of New York's 4-3 Game 3 victory over Boston primarily because the Red Sox scored in the seventh inning. Felix Heredia walked the only batter he faced, David Ortiz, to start the inning, forcing Torre to go to Jose Contreras quicker than he would have liked.
Contreras allowed a single to Kevin Millar before getting Trot Nixon to hit into a double play. But Ortiz scored on the twin killing, and Torre's mind was made up. Had Boston not cut into what had been the two-run lead, Jose Contreras would probably have pitched the eighth inning, at least until he ran into trouble.
The work, however, didn't seem to bother Rivera. He pitched two perfect innings after pitching the ninth inning of Game Two on Thursday at Yankee Stadium.
Rivera's 28th career postseason save extended his own record. It was his seventh LCS save, leaving him four shy of Dennis Eckersley atop the all-time list. Rivera has not allowed a run in his last 23 1/3 innings through his last 19 appearances [15 regular season, four playoffs]. He now also has nine career two-inning postseason saves.
"You know, certainly again, you'll think I'm a liar because I say I don't want to bring him in in the eighth inning," said Torre after Rivera's 19-pitch effort. "But once we gave up that extra run, I felt it was necessary, especially with the emotion of the game.
"He threw less than 20 pitches for the combined two innings, which is like pitching one inning. We'll wait until tomorrow when he throws in the outfield and he'll tell [pitching coach] Mel [Stottlemyre] how he feels.
"Someone asked me before the game about pitching him two innings three games in a row," Torre continued. "You never know from one game to the next if a closer is going to come into play. So I think when you get an opportunity in a short series like this to win a ballgame, you try to seize that moment. As I say, I never wanted to do that, but the game itself dictated that I had nowhere else to go in my mind."
Rivera wouldn't say much about his effort. He never does.
"I do anything I can to help my team win the game," he said.
But his dominating effort preserved a victory for Roger Clemens and The Rocket wasn't shy about heaping praise on his closer.
"Pick your two most favorite superheroes and I'll put Rivera up against both of them," Clemens said. "Mo is the best. What he did tonight, to come in again for two innings, he could take on anybody."
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.