10/17/2003 3:16 AM ET
Rivera garners ALCS MVP honor
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NEW YORK -- Mariano Rivera didn't care how long he had to pitch, as long as the season didn't end on Thursday night.
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
"I was thinking no way, no way we give up this game," Rivera said.
Rivera pitched three heart-pounding and, as usual, scoreless innings to hold the Red Sox at bay until Aaron Boone's 11th-inning leadoff home run gave the Yankees a 6-5 victory in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium.
The performance was Rivera's longest outing since Sept. 6, 1996 against Toronto, when he was setup man to former Yankee closer John Wetteland. It solidified the ALCS Most Valuable Player Award for Rivera, who previous was named MVP of the 1999 World Series.
Rivera was a setup man and closer all in one during the ALCS. He finished 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA and two saves, while totaling eight innings over four appearances -- an unheard-of workload in this era of the one-inning closer.
"I have to do my best, get a chance to win, give [Boone] a chance to hit that home run," Rivera said.
The Yankees lost Game 6 because their relievers couldn't get the ball to Rivera with the lead. On Thursday night, it took every reliever or starter with a semi-fresh arm to do it.
The baseball world was ready to say goodbye to Roger Clemens when he left trailing, 4-0, early in the fourth inning. But starter Mike Mussina, 0-3 this postseason and 0-2 in the series, pitched three two-hit innings to begin an effort that included Felix Heredia, Jeff Nelson and starter David Wells, who gave up a homer to David Ortiz in the eighth for a 5-2 Red Sox lead.
Thanks to Rivera, who struck out three, that would be the Red Sox' last run of 2003.
"The way he steps it up in the playoffs, it's almost not fair," said the Yankees' Jason Giambi, who knocked two home runs. "He's cartoon-like. Going out for a third inning, he would have gone out there for a fourth. He wasn't going to lose this game."
The Red Sox managed two hits off Rivera, the more troublesome being an Ortiz double with two out in the 10th. But Rivera ended the inning by getting Kevin Millar to pop out to shortstop Derek Jeter.
The Yankees had Jose Contreras warming up after the 11th, even though Rivera used strikeouts of Trot Nixon and Doug Mirabelli to sandwich a Bill Mueller groundout in the top of the inning.
At one point in the season, Rivera blew 5-of-7 saves and faced questions about whether he had lost his magic. But he finished the season strong, and hexed the Red Sox.
"I was doing the same thing I'm doing right now," Rivera said. "The only difference was I was missing my spots."
Now, Rivera has found his way back to the spotlight.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.