Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe
Gordon Edes on yesterday's loss:
Check out the audio slide show to the left for comments from the Globe's Gordon Edes and Sox players Matt Clement, Jason Varitek and Keith Foulke. If the slide show doesn't launch, try using Internet Explorer as your browser, or click on the still image of Foulke and Derek Jeter to launch the slide show in a new window.

Rivera closes door quickly on outing

NEW YORK -- He had just watched his closer, Mariano Rivera, give up a tying home run to Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, the "No-o-o-o-o" forming on Rivera's lips almost from the moment the misdirected fastball left his hand.

Now, it was Johnny Damon, launching a drive toward the short right-field porch in Yankee Stadium.

"Oh," Yankees manager Joe Torre said, "It was about the same feeling I had when [Mike] Piazza hit that ball to end the last game of the [2000] World Series. When I saw Damon hit one to the pole side, I didn't like the feeling.

"I didn't get up. I watched their dugout. When I saw their dugout come off the top step, I knew it was good news."

Damon's ball, like Piazza's, didn't leave the park. It was caught, and when Derek Jeter homered in the bottom of the ninth off Sox closer Keith Foulke, Torre did not have to relive last October, when the Sox got to his closer on back-to-back nights and reversed the fortunes of the American League Championship Series, or even last July 24, when Bill Mueller took Rivera into the Fenway Park bullpen for a two-run home run that altered the course of the season.

"That game seems eons ago," Torre sighed when reminded of the Mueller home run. "Boston is no free lunch. We earn everything we get.

"The club we're playing, they're world champions. If they don't have confidence now, I don't know when they're going to get it. We play each other so much, the odds aren't always going to go in our favor. I'm glad we escaped."

But no one expected the Yankees would require a parachute, not on a day when the Connecticut Yankee, Carl Pavano, pitched with panache and precision, striking out seven Sox batters in 6 1/3 innings and earning a big ovation in his pinstriped debut, Hideki Matsui hit his second home run in two games against the Sox, and Jeter and Gary Sheffield both made terrific defensive plays.

This was an afternoon when Rivera, by acclamation still the best closer in baseball, could have put a serious crimp in the notion that the Sox somehow have cracked the code against him. Seven times since the start of the 2003 season, Rivera has blown saves against the Sox, including the two playoff games last October. Of the 49 regular-season games in which he has been charged with a blown save in his career, nine have come against the Red Sox, 18.4 percent of his total. Only the Angels, with eight, come close.

"I've never spoken to a hitter who thinks they have his number," said a dismissive Jeter.

"You might go three or four months before Mo gives up a home run like that. Give Varitek some credit. He hit a good pitch, up and in. He did a good job."

The game had been over nearly an hour before Rivera made it back to his locker. That he would be there eventually was never in doubt among the people who see him on a daily basis. The soft-spoken native of Panama always has been accountable.

"I was just mad at myself," he said of his reaction to Varitek's home run. "If I make a good pitch and the guy hits it, I did my job. But if I miss my spot, I take it upon myself."

He had intended the fastball to crowd Varitek, but instead left it in his swing path.

"He got it in an ugly zone," Torre said, "and Varitek took an aggressive swing.

"They're good. And they're a very good fastball-hitting team, no question about it. And when you make mistakes against them, they don't hit singles."

Rivera's only concession to the Red Sox was yes, they see him a lot, and it's a game of adjustments. But when asked if he needed to make adjustments in turn, there was steel in his voice.

"I don't have to adjust to anyone," he said. "Things are going to happen. You miss your spot and leave the ball over the plate, they're going to end up tying the game."

He showed a rare flash of irritation when someone asked him whether a connection could be drawn between Varitek's home run yesterday and Mueller's home run last July and a screen-shot home run by Shea Hillenbrand in 2002.

"Nothing," Rivera said. "My God. It's not legitimate. It doesn't matter what happened. Talk to me about those home runs? That makes no sense to me."

More questioners bore in -- are the Sox inside his head?

"No," he said. "I mean, this is a game. You're going to win some and lose some. I don't know any pitcher who thinks he's going to win all his games. And if there is a pitcher who thinks he's going to lose every game he pitches, then he shouldn't pitch."

Jeter said he was glad to have been in a position to bail Rivera out.

"I've been seeing Jetes for years, years, years," said Rivera, who broke in with the Yankees the same season Jeter did, 1995. "I'm not surprised. That's the kind of player he is. Things always happen when he's there. Especially games like this."

Remember, Torre said, the Sox have had more opportunities against Rivera than almost anybody else. "They're a good team," he said, "but Mariano is still the best in the game as far as I'm concerned."

Don't forget, Rivera said, who won the game. That was an outcome he could live with.

"I'm a human being," he said. "You guys think I'm a machine. I bleed. But I don't get too upset."

red sox extras
Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives