Just like Wetteland
Yankees reliever wins MVP for second time in three Series
Posted: Thursday October 28, 1999 09:25 AM
With two saves and a win in Game 3, Mariano Rivera was an easy choice for Series MVP. AP
NEW YORK (AP) -- Sometimes he pitches two innings, sometimes one. The distance differs from game to game, but the results are always the same for Mariano Rivera, anchor of the New York Yankees bullpen and MVP of the World Series.
Rivera saved Game 1 of the Series, getting the last four outs in a 4-1 Yankees victory. He came back with two scoreless innings as the winning pitcher in the 6-5 victory in Game 3.
On Wednesday night, he came on in the eighth inning with the tying runs on base and retired Chipper Jones on a grounder to end Atlanta's last threat. Then he breezed through the ninth and for the second straight year, he was on the mound when the last out was recorded, securing the championship with a 4-1 victory. He was the obvious MVP choice.
"I just feel tremendous to be there," he said. "I want to be there when this happens. I was there and I was the guy throwing the last pitch. It feels tremendous."
This time, he was the MVP, as well.
"The MVP thing," he said. "We all were MVP. The whole thing: manager, coaches, the 25 guys that were on the field.
"Last year, it was the best team in baseball they talked about. Nobody said nothing about this year. Everybody would say, `Oh, Yankees, they don't have the same numbers we had last year.' Last year was tremendous. I think those years happen only once in 100 years."
The clinching save was routine for Rivera, who savors moments like those.
"I don't think about the runs," Rivera said. "I'm in a spot. I can't afford to give up any runs, so I don't think about it. If I give it up, I give it up. That's not in my mind.'"
Rivera arrived throwing fastballs and Yankees starter Roger Clemens admired the job he did.
"Someone ought to sign him to a bat contract the way he breaks bats," Clemens said.
"He's the best," catcher Joe Girardi said. "He's the best closer I've ever seen."
In eight postseason appearances, Rivera has two victories and six saves. He has not allowed a run in his last 25 2-3 innings of postseason play over 18 outings with two victories and 12 saves.
Rivera's save extended his scoreless streak to 12 1-3 consecutive innings over eight games in three World Series. The last time he gave up a run in a Series game was the eighth inning of Game 3 in 1996. The Yankees beat Atlanta that night, triggering a record-tying streak of 12 World Series victories for New York. Rivera said he relishes the high-wire act of a reliever.
"I love the challenge," he said. "I love to be in that situation. I guess that's my motivation. Once you're there, you have butterflies in your stomach. You know you're there for real. You just want to do it."
Rivera was the Yankees' setup man in the 1996 World Series when John Wetteland was the closer and saved all four Yankees victories against Atlanta to win that Series MVP award. When Wetteland signed as a free agent with Texas, New York moved Rivera into the closer role and he has flourished there. In three seasons as the closer, he has 122 saves.
The switch from setup to closer required a change in approach for Rivera.
"When you're the setup man, you know somebody will come behind you," Rivera said. "When you're the closer, you know there's nobody coming behind you. It's tough.
"The setup man has a net. The closer has nothing. If he falls, he's dead."
Rivera's postseason ERA of 0.36 -- two earned runs in 47 1-3 innings -- is the lowest for any pitcher with at least 30 innings in postseason history.
Rivera was just as good in the regular season, finishing with a 4-3 record and 1.83 ERA while converting 45 of 49 save opportunities, tying his career high. He ended the regular season with a scoreless streak of 30 2-3 innings over 28 games and converted his last 22 save chances.
The slender 29-year-old, who grew up playing with gloves cut out of cardboard in his native Panama, last gave up a run on July 16 against Atlanta, over three months ago.
In three chances against him in the World Series, the Braves didn't come close to getting another.
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