By Gary Hill
The greatest closer in the history of baseball toed the rubber for the final time in Seattle over the weekend. Mariano Rivera closed out the Mariners Saturday and Sunday to help the Yankees take three of four games.
Rivera has now racked up 631 career saves, which is the most in baseball history. He has 153 more saves than Lee Smith, who has secured the third-most saves in history (478). Rivera has more than Rollie Fingers and Dan Quisenberry combined. His saves record will not be touched any time soon, if ever. Here is the list of active saves leaders:
Mariano Rivera, who’s retiring after the season, padded his all-time saves lead by closing out two games over the weekend in his final appearance in Seattle. (AP)
Mariano Rivera, 631
Joe Nathan, 317
Francisco Rodriguez, 298
Jose Valverde, 285
Jonathan Papelbon, 268
Huston Street, 212
J.J. Putz, 188
Heath Bell, 164
Joakim Soria, 160
Kevin Gregg, 151
Nathan has averaged 37 saves a year for the past six seasons. He would need to maintain that same pace for the next nine years to catch Rivera. Nathan would be 46 years old at that point.
Craig Kimbrel from the Braves is off to a nice start. He has averaged 44 saves in his first two seasons. He just needs to keep that pace for the next 12 years to catch Rivera.
Rivera is fourth all-time in games pitched and one of just 15 pitchers to appear over 1,000 times. He maintains the sixth-best ERA in history (2.20) for pitchers who have tossed at least 400 games. Only Ed Walsh (1.82), Mordecai Brown (2.06), Christy Mathweson (2.11), Cy Young (2.12) and Walter Johnson (2.17) are ahead of him.
They Yankees are 662-43 when Rivera gets a save opportunity.
Rivera saved an Andy Pettitte win for the 71st time on Saturday, which is a Major League record.
1. Andy Pettitte-Mariano Rivera, 71
2. Bob Welch-Dennis Eckersley, 57
3. Mike Mussina-Mariano Rivera, 49
4. Dave Stewart-Dennis Eckersley, 43
5. Jimmy Key-Tom Henke, 37
6. Kevin Tapani-Rick Aguilera, 37
This does not include the 11 times the duo have combined for a win and a save in the postseason. Rivera has saved 42 postseason games, which is more than the next two (Brad Lidge and Dennis Eckersley) combined.
It was the Mariners who jettisoned him to the bullpen for good. He made the last of his 10 career starts on Sept. 5, 1995. The M’s beat him up for five runs in just 4 1/3 innings. Luis Sojo and Ken Griffey Jr. both homered off of him. Edgar Martinez also contributed two hits.
Martinez dominated Rivera like no one else in the game ever has. He hit .579 (11 for 19) with two home runs, six RBIs, three doubles and three walks off of Rivera. To put in in perspective, Edgar swatted five extra-base hits off of Rivera in 23 plate appearances. The Detroit Tigers as a team have eight extra-base hits in 215 plate appearances versus Rivera. The Chicago White Sox have managed just 10 extra-base hits in 302 plate appearances. The combined total of extra-base hits from the Diamondbacks, Braves, Cubs, Reds, Rockies, Astros, Pirates, Giants and Cardinals is not greater than Edgar’s.