Yankees’ Rivera breaks playoff record for scoreless innings
By KIRBY ARNOLD and BOB BOLERJACK
SEATTLE — As Mariano Rivera keeps dominating hitters in the postseason, he also writes new chapters in baseball’s record book.
The Yankees closer pitched the final inning and two-thirds Friday to extend his postseason scoreless streak to 33 1/3innings, breaking the major-league postseason record of 33 consecutive scoreless innings set by Yankee Whitey Ford from 1960-62.
Rivera, whose streak covers 23 appearances, also extended his postseason record for saves to 17.
Rivera is a right-hander who is particularly tough on left-handed hitters because he throws a cut fastball that tends to break away from them.
Perhaps the biggest out he recorded in the Yankees’ 8-2 victory over the Mariners Friday came with two outs in the eighth inning against left-handed John Olerud.
With a runner at third and New York nursing a 4-2 lead, Olerud had worked the count full against Rivera, then flew out harmlessly to left to end the inning and the Mariners’ fading hopes.
"I (know I) don’t want to walk him," Rivera said of the Olerud at-bat. "I just threw a pitch over the inside corner. I was glad it was a strike. After that, well, I have nothing to lose. Just go for it, and I made a good pitch, and he popped it up."
The Mariners’ first important decision Friday had nothing to do with bunts, steals, hit-and-runs or pitching changes.
Two hours before game time, Mariners president Chuck Armstrong huddled with Major League Baseball officials to discuss whether the Safeco Field roof would be opened for Friday’s game.
Until the game starts, Armstrong makes the decision on whether to open or close the roof. After that, it’s in the hands of the umpires.
With a light rain falling outside but the chance for clearing skies by game time, Armstrong made sure major league CEO Paul Beeston knew the procedures for opening the roof, and what would happen if it needed to be closed during the game.
Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln also was in on that meeting, behind the batting cage, and admitted he had trouble following all the scenarios.
"Chuck was explaining it to Beeston and it got so complicated, even I got confused," Lincoln said.
The meeting ended with only one thing resolved: A final decision on whether to open the roof would be made a half-hour before the first pitch.
It turned out to be a no-brainer.
With rain still falling and heavy clouds in every direction, the roof stayed closed.
Mariners manager Lou Piniella has a theory about players who put up huge numbers in the regular season, then crumble in the spotlight of the playoffs.
"One, they are really scrutinized. When you go over them in the lineup, the first thing you tell your pitchers is ‘Don’t let that guy beat you. Don’t give in to him. Don’t give him the fat pitches to hit,’ " Piniella said. "That, plus great players usually try to exceed what they have done, and sometimes they try too hard and get themselves in a little bit of a rut and put a little more pressure on themselves. You’re facing better pitching, too (in the postseason)."
Stan Williams has watched Roger Clemens his whole career and says the right-hander is just as effective at age 37 as he was at 27. But if the Mariners play their at-bats right, Williams says, they can beat him today.
Williams, the Mariners’ advance scout, says the book on Clemens this year is that he’s as tough as nails early, then loses velocity and effectiveness as his pitch count increases.
"We’ll have to be patient with him," Williams said. "Work the count on him, make him throw a lot of pitches."
That’s easier said than accomplished.
The current crop of Mariners have a combined career mark of 125 strikeouts in 441 at-bats, a ratio of one strikeout in every 31/2 at-bats.
Williams laughs when he hears people talk about the effect a noisy crowd can have on an opponent.
"Noise doesn’t bother these guys. A player is so deep into concentration, you don’t notice what’s going on in the stands," said Williams, a major league pitcher in the 1950s and ’60s. "I learned to make myself deaf to crowd sounds by tuning out the high-pitched noises. I can stand next to a telephone now and not hear it ring."
The first disabling injury of the series occurred to the umpiring crew. Randy Marsh, who suffered an elbow injury in the regular season, aggravated it in Wednesday’s game and missed Friday’s game. He was replaced by Fieldin Culbreath.
Yankees manager Joe Torre was asked before Friday’s game whether talk of a possible Subway Series between the Yankees and Mets was a burden for his team.
"It’s one of those distractions where, if you allow it to be, it can be," he said.
Torre isn’t spending much time thinking about it, however. His focus is on beating the Mariners.
"There is no Subway Series unless we get in it," he said. "That’s our priority right now, for sure.
"And I’ll allow this: that if it ever happened, it would be wild. It would be absolutely crazy in New York."
Torre may appear tranquil during a game, but underneath that calm exterior, it’s a different story.
"I think when I played, I never really wanted to give the opposition … the pleasure of seeing me aggravated when they got me out," he said. "So I’ve always been that way to some degree, and I’m not sure that was smart, because I kept a lot of stuff inside. I’d go in the dugout, I’d grab a hook on the wall, and I’d pull it off, break it where I was letting some smoke off there.
"And right now … I’m not calm. I feel it inside, but I’m not working very hard at not showing it, because that’s just the way I’ve been."
The Mariners won’t put single-game World Series tickets on sale until they know they’ve made it.
The Yankees have no such reservations. They put tickets on sale today for all four possible home games.
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