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09/14/11 3:00 AM ET

Enter 600-man: Mo marks milestone

SEATTLE -- Mariano Rivera has always placed the fortunes of the team above personal accomplishments, so it was only fitting that he needed to rely on his teammates to help him join the 600-save club.

Russell Martin fired a strike to Derek Jeter at second base, catching Ichiro Suzuki stealing for the final out as Rivera recorded save No. 600 in a 3-2 victory over the Mariners on Tuesday at Safeco Field.

"It was a great moment for my teammates to be there. They're my family away from my family," Rivera said. "It was great seeing them all come to the mound.

"I've been blessed to have a great bunch of guys as my teammates, supporting me and giving me all the opportunities to be able to pitch."

Trevor Hoffman is the only other pitcher to have recorded as many as 600 saves, and Hoffman's hold on the all-time saves mark could be eclipsed as soon as this week.

Rivera needs just one save to tie Hoffman, who retired after last season, and the 41-year-old closer plans to have a full complement of his family and friends on hand whenever the chance for No. 602 should arrive.

"It feels great; it's a great number," Rivera said. "But [602] is the biggest. I thank God for that moment. My wife, my kids, teammates and the whole organization; all those great fans out there that support giving me the opportunity to do my job."

Notching his 41st save of the year, Rivera entered for the ninth inning, looking to preserve a victory for A.J. Burnett after Rafael Soriano and David Robertson each fired an inning of scoreless relief.

Rivera struck out Wily Mo Pena before allowing a single to Ichiro, but then struck out Kyle Seager swinging. On a 1-0 pitch to Dustin Ackley, Martin threw out Ichiro stealing to end the game.

Martin admitted that he wasn't aware the save would be Rivera's 600th until it was already over and the Yankees were congregating en masse, shaking Rivera's hand with congratulatory words.

"I really didn't," Martin said. "Just trying to get another win, you know? But it was special. I threw the guy out and didn't realize until I saw everyone gathered up on the mound. It's definitely cool."

Two Mo' to record
By closing out the Mariners on Tuesday, Mariano Rivera became just the second pitcher to capture 600 saves and moved within one of Trevor Hoffman's all-time record.
Rank Player Saves
1. Trevor Hoffman 601
2. Mariano Rivera 600
3. Lee Smith 478
4. John Franco 424
5. Billy Wagner 422

Jeter raced to the mound clutching the baseball for Rivera's safe-keeping, and he said that his message to Rivera was simple.

"'You're the best,' he knows that," Jeter said. "We've been close for a very, very long time. I know how important it is to him to come here and do his job. He takes a lot of pride in doing his job. And he's done his job better than anyone else."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that any and all fanfare about Rivera's pursuit of the record is well-deserved.

"It's an incredible accomplishment," Girardi said. "I don't know if we'll ever see it again. That's how incredible this accomplishment is, what he and Trevor Hoffman have done.

"This is a guy that I believe is the best closer that's ever been in the game. I've had the fortune of coaching him, coaching him and managing him. And it's a treat."

It was somewhat appropriate that Rivera reached a round number in Seattle, where he rose to prominence as a 25-year-old rookie reliever in the 1995 American League Division Series.

The course of that series, and Yankees history, may have been altered if then-manager Buck Showalter knew exactly what he had in his bullpen. What if Rivera had relieved David Cone earlier in the eighth inning of Game 5? We'll never know.

As it was, Rivera would log his first career save on May 17, 1996, over the California Angels, one of five he logged in a season where he proved his mettle by setting up for John Wetteland en route to a World Series championship.

Rivera inherited the closer's job in 1997, and greatness followed, as the Yankees are now 631-41 in games where Rivera was provided a save opportunity.

"Every game Mariano has ever pitched has been a meaningful game," Alex Rodriguez said. "And he's either been in first place or second place, so the pressure you have to add to that. It's just like Jeet -- you're doing it at Harvard with the Yankees. Every one of those saves meant something. Every one of them."

The milestone is just further confirmation of Rivera's prowess. He already owns the all-time record for postseason saves with 42, nearly as many as the next three on the list combined (Brad Lidge, 18; Dennis Eckersley, 15; and Jason Isringhausen/Robb Nen, 11).

"He tries not to say too much about it, but deep down, I'm sure he's happy about it," Jeter said. "He'll probably get a chance to reflect on it a little once the season's over."

Owning a dominant cut fastball, pinpoint command and later adding a sinker to his repertoire, Rivera frustrated hitters and elated Yankees fans as arguably the most indispensable piece of a dynasty that won four championships in five years.

"Everything about Mariano is amazing," Rodriguez said. "He's synonymous with greatness and the Yankees. A hundred years from now, they'll be saying we all saw the greatest closer of all-time. I'm like you guys; I'm just witnessing history."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.