Rivera earns 500th save as Yankees beat Mets

NEW YORK — Mariano Rivera has 500 saves — and one precious RBI.

Guess which feat he was most excited about.

On a New York night that belonged to baseball’s most unflappable closer, Rivera became the second reliever to reach the 500-save milestone when the Yankees held off the punchless Mets 4-2 Sunday for a Subway Series sweep.

He joined Milwaukee’s Trevor Hoffman, who has 571 saves, as the only major leaguers with 500. The biggest surprise, though: Rivera drew a bases-loaded walk to add a ninth-inning insurance run.

“I had one thing in mind — just try to do something,” Rivera said, before expounding on his save. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely special.”

Chien-Ming Wang won for the first time in more than a year and Rivera got four outs, securing the Yankees’ fifth consecutive victory, all on the road.

In a fun twist, the 39-year-old closer even contributed offensively. The Mets walked Derek Jeter intentionally to get to Rivera with two outs, but he’s proved to be no pushover at the plate. He fouled off a 2-2 pitch from Francisco Rodriguez before working out a walk for his first career RBI.

It was the third regular-season plate appearance for Rivera — and second in five days. With his teammates yucking it up in the dugout, he flied out against Atlanta on Wednesday, when he got save No. 498.

“He looks good up there,” longtime teammate Andy Pettitte said. “I think in Atlanta they gave him a take sign and he swung anyway.”

Mark Teixeira hit a two-run double off Livan Hernandez (5-3) in a three-run first, when the Yankees had two of their four hits.

The injury-depleted Mets managed five, their best offensive output of the three-game series. The Yankees took five of six games from their crosstown rivals this season, handing the Mets their first sweep in 13 series at their new home, Citi Field.

“He’s one of the premier closers in my time,” Mets manager Jerry Manuel said about Rivera. “I wasn’t applauding him tonight, but you do have to applaud that.”

Rivera entered with two on in the eighth and went to a full count on Omir Santos before throwing a called third strike. The right-hander pitched a one-hit ninth for his 18th save in 19 chances this season.

“He’s the definition of consistency,” Jeter said.

After the final out, Teixeira handed Rivera the game ball and the Yankees poured out of the dugout to hug him near first base.

It was the 110th time Rivera has gone more than one inning for a save. And he’s done all this with one pitch for the most part — that searing cut fastball.

“I told him he’s the best ever. The best I’ve seen. Nobody can even compare,” Yankees catcher Jorge Posada said.

The Yankees (43-32) matched a season high at 11 games over .500.

Still struggling with his command, Wang (1-6) allowed four hits and three walks in a season-high 5 1-3 innings. He was pulled with a runner on second, but Phil Coke and Phil Hughes got the Yankees out of the sixth unscathed.

Hughes worked around a leadoff walk in a hitless seventh. Brian Bruney got two outs but walked two batters before manager Joe Girardi called on Rivera, whose first save came on May 17, 1996, against the California Angels when he got Garret Anderson to ground into a game-ending double play, closing out an 8-5 victory for Andy Pettitte and the Yankees.

Girardi and Jeter each had two hits and an RBI in that game.

Following a season-ending foot injury last June, Wang has been unable to rediscover the form that made him a 19-game winner in 2006 and ‘07.

His previous win was June 15 last year in Houston and he was 0-3 with a 34.50 ERA after three starts this season, then went on the disabled list for nearly a month with weakness in the adductor muscles in his hips.

After coming back, Wang made three relief appearances before returning to the rotation June 4 against Texas. His last three outings have shown gradual improvement.

The Mets cut it to 3-2 in the fourth. Prized prospect Fernando Martinez snapped an 0-for-16 slump with an RBI double and scored on Luis Castillo’s two-out single.

NOTES: It was Rivera’s 18th regular-season save against the Mets. … Citi Field became the 26th ballpark in which Rivera has notched a save. … Johnny Damon didn’t start for the second consecutive game because of a flu bug that’s been going around the Yankees’ clubhouse. Melky Cabrera started in left field, but Damon entered in the sixth.

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