8/13/2013 12:07 A.M. ET
Robertson bears down for save with Mo unavailable
By Josh Vitale and Chris Iseman / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- When David Robertson saw Josh Hamilton's blooper travel over Alex Rodriguez's head at third and drop into left field with one out in the ninth inning on Monday night, he knew he had just made a difficult situation even harder.
"Good God, you're in a tough spot now," the reliever said to himself. "And it just got even worse."
Hamilton's double cut the Yankees' lead to one run and gave the Angels runners on second and third with one out in the ninth inning. And after an intentional walk to Erick Aybar, Robertson found himself in a bases-loaded jam with no help in sight from closer Mariano Rivera, who was unavailable after throwing 81 pitches over his last three outings.
But, like he's already done so many times in his young career, Robertson worked out of it. "Houdini" struck out Mark Trumbo on three pitches for the second out of the inning and got former Yankees infielder Chris Nelson to wave at a high 3-2 fastball, preserving New York's 2-1 victory over Los Angeles.
"It turned into a really sticky situation," Robertson said. "I didn't really help myself out much. But I held it down."
The save was the sixth of Robertson's career and his first since Sept. 20, 2012, against the Blue Jays. He has now retired 25 straight batters with the bases loaded dating back to April 25, 2011, which is the longest streak since Giants reliever Jeff Brantley retired 30 straight from 1989-1991.
Robertson and catcher Chris Stewart admitted the last pitch to Nelson wasn't in the strike zone. Robertson said it was over the plate but high, and Stewart called the pitch "eye-level."
"It was close enough to the zone where he had to swing," Robertson said. "I don't think he wants to punch out there with runners on base and a chance to win the ballgame."
It wasn't the easiest set of circumstances for the setup man. Despite the fact that Rivera had blown his third straight save on Sunday, the Yankee Stadium crowd broke out into a "We want Mo!" chant after reliever Boone Logan allowed a single to J.B. Shuck to lead off the inning. They serenaded Robertson with the same chant after he gave up the double to Hamilton.
After the game, Rivera said it was Robertson's turn to close, even if it was just for one game.
"I want him to succeed," Rivera said. "Definitely I was pulling for him. And he did a good job. The little blooper, you cannot control that, and the walk. But he faced a good part of the lineup, and bases loaded he struck out the guy."
It's something that could become a lot more common next year. Rivera plans to retire following this season, and Robertson -- who is 4-1 with a 1.81 ERA over 53 appearances this season -- is the heir apparent to take over the ninth for the Yankees.
It's a role he's ready for, even if he's willing to admit throwing the ninth is a little more daunting than pitching in the eighth.
"If I'm throwing the eighth inning, if I gave up a run right there but still escape the inning, then Mo's got to come in to a 2-1 game rather than a 2-0 game," Robertson said. "I do think that not having another inning to fall back on makes a difference."
Just because Robertson got the save on Sunday doesn't mean Girardi is ready to think about life without Rivera just yet, though.
"I never think about next year," Girardi said. "I worry about tomorrow."
Mariano working to keep release point consistent
NEW YORK -- Despite being the all-time leader in saves and being in his 19th and final Major League season, Mariano Rivera occasionally still needs to take a look at his mechanics. Even Rivera is susceptible to having them get slightly out of line.
Unfortunately for Rivera and the Yankees, that's cost him three consecutive save opportunities. But it's certainly not anything he's concerned about.
"It's a profession, you know what you're doing," said Rivera, who has 35 saves this season. "That's why I have a pitching coach and a bullpen coach. They tell you what you're doing wrong."
Rivera didn't have the chance to test out any corrections on Monday night. Boone Logan and David Robertson combined to pitch the ninth, with Robertson striking out Chris Nelson with two outs and the bases loaded to earn the save and seal the 2-1 win for the Yankees. Fans chanted, "We want Mo!" during the inning, but this was a night off for New York's closer.
Manager Joe Girardi said he and pitching coach Larry Rothschild decided to give Rivera a breather after a heavy workload in the last week. Rivera has pitched four innings and thrown 81 pitches since Wednesday.
"Mo's never going to back out of a situation," Girardi said. "That's where as a pitching coach or a manager, you have to manage the player and understand sometimes they just need a day whether they want to go out there or not."
After Monday's win over the Angels, Rivera emphasized he feels fine physically and is ready to pitch on Tuesday. This was just a chance to get some rest.
"Nothing's wrong. I threw a few pitches in Chicago and the two outings here," Rivera said. "It was time for Robby to close, which he did good, too. We won the game, which is what matters."
Rivera worked with Rothschild on Monday to make sure he's keeping his release point consistent. It hasn't been in his last three appearances, and it's caused him to leave some pitches up in the strike zone.
In the series finale in Chicago on Wednesday, Rivera allowed an RBI single to White Sox pinch-hitter Adam Dunn that tied the score at 4.
On Friday, Rivera allowed a two-run home run to Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera that tied the game at 3. Then on Sunday, Rivera gave up two solo home runs to Cabrera and Detroit designated hitter Victor Martinez that tied the game at 4.
Even though the Yankees won both games against the Tigers courtesy of Brett Gardner's walk-off heroics, the blown save opportunities still stung.
But Rivera said this happens from time to time. Just like hitters go through slumps, pitchers -- even those with 643 career saves -- hit rough patches over the course of a season.
So Rivera worked to hammer out his release-point issue. Rivera said he lets Rothschild look at the film, and he'll make the necessary correction on the mound.
"I have to keep working," Rivera said. "You can't stop. You stop when you finish."
Anytime Rivera falters, it comes as a surprise. He's been so consistent and so dominant throughout his career, he's seemingly automatic on the mound.
But there's no way Rivera's concerned about one rocky stretch during a long season.
"When it happens, everything is magnified," Rivera said. "This happens, that's the beauty of it. It always keeps me humble."
Jeter making progress in recovery from calf strain
NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter is eligible to return from the disabled list this weekend when the Yankees travel to Boston. Joe Girardi isn't sure if he'll be ready to come back that soon, though.
The Yankees' manager said the shortstop is "making progress" in his recovery from a right calf strain. Jeter was scheduled to begin taking tee and toss on Monday, and he could begin a running program in the next week.
Jeter has only played in five games between his three stints on the DL this season, batting .211 with a home run and two RBIs. He returned from a broken left ankle on July 11, and went back on the DL with a quad strain after that game. He was activated again on July 28, only to be put back on the DL four games later with a calf strain.
Third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who made his season debut on Aug. 3 -- 23 days after Jeter's -- played his sixth game of the season on Monday.
"We weren't sure who we were going to get back first when it came to those two," Girardi said. "Initially, we thought we were going to get Derek back after Spring Training, and that didn't work. I'm not really sure I find it hard to believe that Alex has played more games than Derek or vice versa. But Derek came back first. It's just been a strange year."
Designated hitter Travis Hafner, who was placed on the disabled list on July 27 with a right rotator cuff strain, is even further from a return than Jeter.
"He feels better. He's continuing his rehab," Girardi said. "He's not ready to do baseball activities yet, though."
• Gardner has been one of the few constants for the Yankees in a season plagued by injuries, and he provided the walk-off hits in each of the team's past two victories. On Monday, Girardi talked about how important he's been for New York this season.
"Gardy is fiery, and I think his personality comes out," Girardi said. "It's been great having him all year. We really missed him last year with what he's capable of doing. His personality has definitely come out this year. It's good."
• Yankees farmhand Melky Mesa was named the International League Batter of the Week this week. The Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre outfielder hit .429 with three home runs and 11 RBIs from Aug. 5-11.
• Injured Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira rang the Opening Bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Monday.
Josh Vitale and Chris Iseman are associate reporters for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.