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10/14/09 6:05 PM EST

Mariano wins Delivery Man of Year Award

It's third time in his career Yanks closer has picked up honor

NEW YORK -- In a postseason in which closer after closer has faltered, Mariano Rivera has stood tall. Battling an illness, Rivera tossed at least one scoreless inning in each of the Yankees' three American League Division Series wins against the Twins, while fellow stoppers such as Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon, Ryan Franklin and Huston Street all struggled.

Rivera is by far the most decorated closer remaining in the postseason. And now, he has one more decoration to add to his collection.

Major League Baseball announced on Wednesday that Rivera beat out Nathan for the Delivery Man of the Year Award, presented annually to the league's best relief pitcher. This is Rivera's third win in the five-year existence of the award.

"He's been so good for so long at being able to locate his pitches," Yankees catcher and longtime teammate Jorge Posada said. "The cutter -- everybody knows it's coming. Everybody gets ready for it. But still, he makes the pitch where he needs to. The location of his pitches is tremendous."

Rivera also won the monthly Delivery Man Award in July.

At age 39, Rivera submitted one of his best regular seasons of all time, saving 44 games in 46 chances to complement a 1.76 ERA. Opposing batters hit just .197 off Rivera -- the fifth time he has held them under a .200 mark in his 15-year career. Perhaps most impressively, Rivera struck out 72 batters in 66 1/3 innings, while walking just 12.

AL Championship Series
Gm. 1 NYY 4, LAA 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 2 NYY 4, LAA 3 Wrap Video
Gm. 3 LAA 5, NYY 4 Wrap Video
Gm. 4 NY 10, LAA 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 5 LAA 7, NYY 6 Wrap Video
Gm. 6 NYY 5, LAA 2 Wrap Video

"This is a guy who hits his spots," backup catcher Jose Molina said. "He doesn't miss that much. And the ball is moving. It moves late, too. It's really hard for anyone to see it. He's been doing it for a long time. He's just tough."

Rivera also won the Delivery Man Award in 2005 and '06. The Red Sox's Papelbon won it in '07, followed by Brad Lidge of the Phillies in '08. Both players went on to win the World Series.

Those two players both endured struggles in 2009, however; Papelbon blowing a lead in Game 3 of the ALDS and Lidge struggling so often that the Phillies wouldn't even say whether he would be their postseason closer. Though Lidge performed capably in the NLDS, other closers around baseball, most notably Franklin, Street and Nathan, endured meltdowns on the mound to cost their teams games.

Rivera, meanwhile, has been typically stellar. Pitching in all three games in a sweep of the Twins, he struck out seven batters in the ALDS, walking one and allowing four hits. And, of course, allowing no runs.

Though the award only takes into account regular-season performance, Rivera's postseason success has only served to punctuate his legacy. And the Yankees will certainly look for more of the same from Rivera in the AL Championship Series, beginning this Friday at 7:57 p.m. ET on FOX against the Angels. Chances are, they'll get it.

"I'm not sure that you ever expect anyone will last at the level that he's lasted for this long," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "When I first saw him in '96, I knew he was going to be good for a long time, but there aren't a lot of closers who are able to do what he's done longevity-wise. And to think about him doing [that] with just one pitch is really amazing."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.