Mariano one save away from 500
Yankees closer converts opportunity using just six pitches
ATLANTA -- It only took six pitches for Mariano Rivera to lock down the Yankees' 11-7 victory over the Braves on Thursday, moving one save away from a significant milestone.
Summoned from the bullpen with two men aboard and the tying run on deck, the 39-year-old closer got Diory Hernandez to fly out to center field, logging career save No. 499.
Rivera is now within one of joining Trevor Hoffman as just the second pitcher to record 500 saves, which could happen this weekend against the Mets at Citi Field.
"Definitely, it's good," Rivera said. "I won't tell you it's not meaningful. It's a blessing."
Rivera's second save in as many nights came with a lighter workload -- certainly much breezier than Wednesday, when he struck out all four batters he faced and even dug in at the plate for an at-bat, flying out to center field.
"I don't call it easy, but there were less outs," Rivera said. "Put it that way. You have to pitch, because you don't know what can happen. He can hit a home run. You never know."
And it wasn't necessarily his lightest workload, even though he only had to retire Hernandez, a rookie infielder, who finished the night batting .108.
Rivera had a one-pitch save in similar fashion on Aug. 7, 2005, in Toronto, preserving a 6-2 Yankees win when the Blue Jays threatened against Tom Gordon.
Still, manager Joe Girardi said he would have preferred not to need Rivera on Thursday in a game the Yankees once led by seven runs. Rivera was summoned when the Braves got two men aboard against David Robertson.
"You don't want to, but we'll take a win any way we can," Girardi said. "We won a series and that's what we concentrate on, and we'll see how he feels tomorrow. If not, we'll have to go somewhere else."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.