An early 17 for Yankees’ Mariano Rivera warrants appreciation

New York Yankees pitcher Rivera waves to fans after their MLB American League baseball game against Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium

(Syndicated from Gotham Hub Baseball).

We just passed the 17th anniversary of Mariano Rivera’s first save on May 17, 1996 when he filled in for John Wetteland and ended it by getting Garret Anderson on a double play.

Since then he’s racked up 624 more, including 75 against the Orioles, which is an astounding number but also is a testament to how the Yankees have handled Baltimore over his career.

Starting with the 1996 season, the Yankees are 169-95 against the Orioles and 84-45 in Baltimore. Rivera has saved 75 of those wins, converting 75 of 83 chances while facing 540 hitters.

Not bad for a guy whose first appearance against the Orioles was a sixth inning grand slam to Bobby Bonilla on September 15, 1995. Not bad for someone who had a 5.79 ERA in six appearances against the Orioles in 1996 as a setup man.

In his first season as closer, he faced them once. Until last year that was Baltimore’s previous winning season and that also marks the last time the Orioles won the season series.

However, that changed in 1998 when he recorded five saves against the Orioles. The first one actually occurred 15 years ago today when the Yankees scored twice in the eighth and Rivera retired Brady Anderson on a lineout to end a 3-1 win.

The Oriole have a .224 batting average against him and that’s actually the fifth highest among American League teams. The hitters faced on the Orioles are the most in the AL as are the 504 at-bats.

The 47 runs are the most he has allowed against any team but that’s simply by facing him before 1997. So are the 11 home runs and the 11 stolen bases.

However,the Orioles have a .266 on-base percentage and that’s seventh among AL teams. The .600 OPS is fourth but that’s also because he hasn’t allowed an OPS higher than .678.

The 168 total bases are also the most but that only allows for more double play opportunities. And sure enough, the Orioles’ 10 double plays against him are the most.

In terms of advanced numbers, the .259 BAPIP against him is in the middle of the pack.

In Baltimore, his 67 appearances are the most in any opposing ballpark. His .173 batting average allowed there  is the third-best in any place he has visited more than 15 times.

The Orioles have been on-base at just a .213 clip and have an OPS of .480 against him in their home games. They also have a .202 average on balls put into play against him at Camden Yards.

He also has a 1.67 ERA there and his 41 saves there are his most anywhere else besides New York. So are his 73 innings and 60 strikeouts.

In terms of this year, to gain a better perspective, look at when he got his 17th save in previous years. This year he has saved 17 of the 28 wins that have come in 44 games so far.

Two years ago, save 17 occurred in Wrigley Field on June 18 when he gave up a solo home run to Reed Johnson before getting a double play and strikeout in the 69th game of the season.

In 2010, save 17 happened at Dodger Stadium on June 25. In the 73rd game, he struck out Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp and James Loney.

In 2009, save 17 happened at Atlanta on June 25. In Game No. 72, he entered with two on and two outs and simply retired a young prospect named Diory Hernandez.

In 2008, save 17 happened in Oakland on June 10. In the 65th game of the season, he gave up a two-out single to Carlos Gonzalez before getting Kurt Suzuki.

In 2007, Rivera had to wait until August 5 and Game 101 to reach that number because of the combination of the team’s slow start and prolific offense. Against the Royals at Yankee Stadium, that save occurred when Mark Teahen grounded out.

In 2006, save 17 also happened at Yankee Stadium but this time it was June 26 and in Game 74. It wasn’t supposed to be that night but after Atlanta scored two to create a save situation in a 5-0 game, he stranded two, watched Bobby Cox get ejected and ended it with a strikeout to Adam LaRoche.

In 2005, save 17 occurred June 27 and in Game 76 at Baltimore. That night was a 6-4 win and it ended perfectly with a Larry Bigbie groundout.

In 2004, save 17 occurred in Game 47 on May 28 in Tampa Bay. He had the tying run up and a runner on second but saved a 7-5 victory by retiring Julio Lugo.

In 2003, Rivera missed the first month with a groin injury, so save 17 did not occur until Game 96 on July 19 against the Indians. It featured two strikeouts and ended with a Victor Martinez groundout in a 7-4 victory.

In 2002, save 17 took place in Game 54 on May 29 at Chicago following a five-run inning by the Yankees. After getting the lead, Rivera gave up a double to Royce Clayton but retired Kenny Lofton and Ray Durham on groundouts.

In 2001, save 17 took place in Game 57 on June 6 against the Orioles. This time it was at Yankee Stadium and with a runner in scoring position, he ended it by striking out Jeff Conine.

In 2000, save 17 took place in Game 69 on June 24 at Chicago. In a 12-8 win over the White Sox, Rivera actually started in the eighth in a 10-5 game and gave up a sacrifice fly to Frank Thomas and an RBI single to Magglio Ordonez. In the ninth he gave up a run, threw two wild pitches but ended it by retiring Brook Fordyce on a flyout..

In 1999, save 17 took place in Game 59 on June 12 in Florida. In a 5-4 win Rivera walked Bruce Aven with two outs but retired Tim Hyers on a groundout to end it.

In 1998, save 17 happened in Game 69 on June 22. The Yankees had a 51-18 record and he ended a 6-4 win that saw the Yankees get three off Greg Maddux and John Rocker. After giving up a hit to Ozzie Guillen, he ended it by retiring Chipper Jones. (I’m guessing Jones is the best player he got the final out against in his 17th save)

In 1997, save 17 happened on June 6 in Game 59 and it was an easy time wrapping up a 6-3 win over Milwaukee. That game saw him preserve a 6-3 win and one of the last by Kenny Rogers with a ground out against former teammate Gerald Williams.

The Yankees have mostly had a good record at this point of the season with some exceptions but the fact that Rivera has 17 saves through just 44 games is astounding, especially compared to when he reached that point previously.

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