Mo's postseason legacy traced to '98 World Series
Yankees closer became playoff icon after posting six saves in first championship run
As Mariano Rivera prepares to retire, the closer's farewell tour has become a central subplot to the season. Major League Baseball's all-time saves leader has been greeted warmly in each of his road stops, and the Yankees are planning a ceremony of their own to honor Rivera's illustrious career in September.
Rivera will be the last active player to regularly wear uniform No. 42, with the number having been retired throughout MLB in 1997 to honor the achievements of barrier-breaking great Jackie Robinson. During his 19-year big league career, Rivera has also chiseled his own mark on the number's legacy. In honor of Rivera and his contributions, MLB.com is commemorating 42 notable moments from Rivera's career -- the 42 Days of Mo.
Mariano Rivera had already saved a nearly unprecedented number of games in the 1998 playoffs when he took the mound for Game 4 of the World Series on October 21.
The Yankees reliever, in his fourth season with the Bronx Bombers and second as the full-time closer, saved two of three games in the American League Division Series against the Rangers, and appeared in the ninth inning four times (one save) in the AL Championship Series against the Indians. He had also saved Games 1 and 3 of the World Series against the Padres when he took the mound that Wednesday at Qualcomm Stadium.
Andy Pettitte was superb in the clincher, but the lefty walked a batter before Tony Gwynn singled with one out in the bottom of the eighth. Jeff Nelson came in and struck out Greg Vaughn before Rivera entered with two outs and Ken Caminiti, representing the potential tying run, at the plate. Caminiti singled, but Rivera got Jim Leyritz to fly out to center to end the inning with the bases loaded.
Rivera stayed on for the ninth to face center fielder Ruben Rivera, catcher Carlos Hernandez and pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney -- the bottom three hitters of the Padres' lineup, who were a combined 2-for-6 in the game up to that point. That trio stood between the Yanks and their second World Series title in three years.
Rivera saved 36 regular-season games for the Yankees that year as they went on to win an AL-record 114 games and take the AL East by an astonishing 22 games. The Padres had rebounded from a last-place finish in 1997 to take the National League pennant the following season.
The Yanks led, 3-0, in the ninth thanks to Pettitte and RBIs from Bernie Williams, Scott Brosius (who would be named World Series MVP) and Ricky Ledee. Ruben Rivera started the inning with an infield single to second base. But Hernandez grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to erase Ruben Rivera, and the Yankees' closer finished the game by getting Sweeney to ground out weakly to third base.
Rivera finished the 1998 postseason with six saves, which, at the time, was second only to his predecessor John Wetteland, who recorded seven during the '96 World Series run. Rivera's mark is still tied for second all-time during a playoff run (he's since saved six games during a single playoffs twice more, in '99 and 2000).
Still, Rivera has far and away the most career playoff saves (42), games played (96) and lowest ERA (0.70).