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11/02/09 2:28 AM EST

In ninth inning, Mo of the same

Rivera adds to legacy with another World Series save

PHILADELPHIA -- The Yankees were nursing a lead, and Mariano Rivera was nursing his rib cage. With the Yankees embroiled in a tense World Series Game 4 at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday, the legendary closer was sitting in the bullpen, applying a heat pack to his torso.

Then Rivera entered the game, padded his World Series resume and ignored all thoughts of injury, explaining away the heat pack with a grin.

"It was cold," Rivera said, referring to Philadelphia temperatures that dipped into the 40s. "It was cold in there. I just wanted to make sure everything was ready to go."

It was. In yet the latest chapter of Rivera's World Series greatness, the 39-year-old closer needed just eight pitches to shut down the Phillies, retiring Matt Stairs, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino in succession to nail down Game 4 of the Series, 7-4, and send the Yankees to the brink of a championship.

And so eight years after blowing his only other career save attempt in November, Rivera recorded the 11th World Series save of his career -- more than any other two pitchers combined. Next on the list is Rollie Fingers, with six, followed by four other pitchers with four.

Rivera has blown just one save in World Series play, serving up a bloop single to Luis Gonzalez in Game 7 in 2001 against the D-backs. Other than that, he has been perfect.

"I thank God for that," Rivera said. "That's all I can say. Thank God for that."

The statistics, in summation, are staggering. Rivera has thrown 34 2/3 innings over 23 World Series games, and he has allowed just four earned runs. Four. His 1.04 World Series ERA ranks 10th in history, but first among those who have played in the last quarter century. Jack Billingham, who pitched in seven World Series games for the Reds in the 1970s, ranks first with a 0.36 ERA over 25 1/3 innings. Also on the list are Babe Ruth and Sandy Koufax.

They are Hall of Famers, and when all is said and done, Rivera will be one, too. Widening the scope and taking all postseason games into account, Rivera has saved 39 games with an 0.75 ERA.

Ravishing Rivera
Most career World Series saves
Rank Player IP Saves
1. Mariano Rivera 34 2/3 11
2. Rollie Fingers 33 1/3 6
3. Allie Reynolds 77 1/3 4
Johnny Murphy 16 1/3 4
Robb Nen 7 2/3 4
John Wetteland 4 1/3 4

His accomplishments have been put into new perspective this October, a month in which every other postseason closer has faltered at least once. The Yankees have personally wreaked havoc on three of them, touching the Twins' Joe Nathan and the Angels' Brian Fuentes for blown saves in the American League playoffs, and tagging Brad Lidge with the loss in World Series Game 4.

Rivera, through it all, has been perfect. He has pitched in 11 postseason games, throwing 14 1/3 innings and allowing one earned run, and -- heat pack or no -- pitching multiple innings whenever manager Joe Girardi has asked. He has five saves in five opportunities.

He has, in essence, been Mariano Rivera.

"It's not a luxury every team has," said shortstop Derek Jeter, Rivera's teammate with the Yankees since 1996. "Mo's human. He's going to make mistakes. He's going to give up runs sometimes. But there isn't a closer that's in the game or a closer that's ever played this game that you'd want to see in this position other than him. He comes around once in a lifetime."

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