Yesterday's Yankees/Diamondbacks game was one of the better games I've seen all year. That actually seems like a strange assessment, given all of the horrible baserunning plays, walks that didn't come around to score, and other stuff (balks, wild pitches). Alright, maybe "better" isn't the greatest word here --- entertaining? Anyway, the last two innings were incredible. In the 9th inning, the Yankees erased a 5-4 deficit and tied the game without the benefit of a hit. In an interesting move, Joe Girardi pulled Joba Chamberlain, who had pitched well in the 8th inning, in favor of Mariano Rivera. I'd always prefer the closer not be wasted in an extra inning game (as opposed to waiting out a save situation and not pitching at all), but with the off-day today, I thought Girardi might consider squeezing another inning out of Chamberlain. Nonetheless, Rivera came in and pitched a perfect 9th --- his 7th consecutive perfect inning. After the Yankees scored a run on a Curtis Granderson homer and Rivera wound up having to hit, it was time for a second inning of relief. The relief perfect game was promptly broken up on a single, double, and an intentional walk to Miguel Montero. This set up Rivera's ridiculous Houdini act: weak pop-up, weaker pop-up, strikeout. The first at-bat was to Chris Young:
The best location to Young was the third pitch that was popped up. Two-seam fastball right on the inside corner. Up next was the lefty-swinging, Yankee-killing Adam LaRoche:
More jamming on the inside corner, this time with the cutter on a lefty batter. More ridiculous command. Finally, it was time for right-handed hitting Mark Reynolds:
Away, away, away. And that's all she wrote.
This is obviously just one game, but it's a microcosm of what makes Mariano Rivera so special.
Gameday PITCHf/x data is from MLB Advanced Media; it can be easily accessed via this tool.