Mariano Rivera is the single greatest closer in the history of the game. No man has performed better in clutch, late game situations then Mo. A 2.25 career ERA over 15 years racking up 526 saves, and that's not even mentioning the .74 ERA in the postseason. Gun to your head, your team's season on the line, 1 inning to go. Who's on the mound for you? Even at 40, the answer is Mariano Rivera.
Which makes it all the much sweeter when you kick his ass and steal one.
That was just what happened on April 24th. Now, we all know how the season's story ends for these two teams, so let's not talk about that now. Instead, let's look back when the Red Sox were tied with the Yankees for second in the division behind the Blue Jays, and riding a 7 game winning streak. The matchup looks good on the surface: Jon Lester vs. Joba Chamberlain. But come inning 9, the Red Sox were down 4-2 after a 4-hit, 0-out "effort" by Hideki Okajima. This was not the way to start the series. This wasn't how we wanted the winning streak to end!
Luckily, the Sox had the 2 guys most likely to avoid that outcome coming up. The first: Kevin Youkilis. Nobody was hotter at that point in the year than Youk, hitting a cool .433 with a 1.318 OPS. Mariano did what he likes to do—throw his cutter—and Youk did what he likes to do—hit the ball. Back up the middle, into center field, and Youk was on first.
J.D. Drew couldn't follow suit, grounding out to second. Which left the job up to the second guy: Jason Bay. Now, Bay wasn't quite killing it like Youk, but a 1.092 is nothing to sneeze at. Mariano, of course, went right back to the cutter. In the same place as it was to Youk. One outside, and then one a little closer and a little higher up. Bay connected, and the ball came down just to the right of that yellow marker in center field. A home run by inches, and the Sox had once again toppled the greatest closer of all time.
But there was still work to be done. The Sox went to extras, going down in order in the 10th as Jonathan Papelbon and Ramon Ramirez shut down the Yankees for 2 innings. Again, the Sox had the 3-4-5 slots due up. Again, Ortiz struck out. And again, Youk made contact on a middle-outside fastball. This time, though, it was no single up the middle, but a towering walkoff shot onto Lansdowne street. No question. The Sox went up 1-0 on the Yankees in 2009.