42 for No. 42: Playoff save could be Mo's last
If Yankees miss postseason, Rivera will finish career by matching jersey number
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 the final days of the regular season.
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 surely would love to add to his postseason save total this fall, helping the Yankees on one more October run before his retirement tour reaches its conclusion.
But if he doesn't, well, at least there would be something poetic about Rivera's final career statistics. He would finish with 42 postseason saves, having reached that number on Oct. 15, 2010, in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Rangers.
Forty-two is a stunning number, 25 more than his closest competitor, Brad Lidge.
It's also a highly appropriate number for the last man to wear it on his back. Those digits, of course, long have been retired across Major League Baseball to honor Robinson, but the players already wearing 42 at the time were allowed to keep it. Once Rivera retires, the number only will be seen on April 15, Jackie Robinson Day.
"It's a privilege, an honor to wear No. 42," Rivera said on Jackie Robinson Day a few years ago. "Especially because of what Jackie represents for us."
The night that Rivera reached 42, it didn't seem like he would get a chance to pitch. The Rangers rocked CC Sabathia for five runs in four innings, but the New York bullpen settled things down, and the Yankees engineered a five-run eighth to take the lead at Rangers Ballpark at Arlington.
Rivera came on for the bottom of the ninth and gave up a single to Mitch Moreland, who advanced to second on a sacrifice. The Rangers had two chances to bring home the tying run, but Rivera wouldn't let them. Michael Young struck out, and Josh Hamilton grounded to third, completing one of Rivera's six scoreless appearances during the 2010 postseason.
"It never gets old," Rivera told the Cleveland Plain Dealer before the series began. "When you have an opportunity to get here, it never gets old. A lot of great players have never had this opportunity.
"I take every shot in the playoffs like it's the first one. I don't know when I will be doing this again. ... I will never take it for granted."
And indeed, Rivera might not get another opportunity.
If he doesn't, he will still finish with a record 0.70 ERA across 141 postseason innings. Rivera has converted 42 of his 47 save chances in the most pressure-packed of settings, getting more than three outs to earn 31 of those saves.