The closer by which all closers will soon be judged, Rivera
waved to a few fans and disappeared into the dugout, another
victory safely secured for the New York Yankees.And he had an important phone call coming -- owner George
Steinbrenner was on the line to offer congratulations."It's amazing, amazing to even think about it," Rivera said
Sunday after escaping two jams and getting six outs to preserve New
York's 6-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox. "I've been
blessed."Alex Rodriguez hit a two-run homer, and Derek Jeter connected
for the first time in two months to give New York an early lead
against Freddy Garcia (10-6).Jaret Wright (6-5) got into the sixth inning and his bullpen
held on, sending the Yankees to their first series sweep of the
White Sox since May 2002.Rivera became the fourth major league pitcher to reach 400 saves
-- and he had to work hard for this one.
Mariano Rivera recorded the final six outs of the Yankees' victory to notch the 400th regular-season save of his career. It was only the 11th time that Rivera earned a save in a game in which he threw at least two innings. You can't help but wonder what Rollie Fingers thinks about that. Fingers pitched at least two innings in 135 of the 341 games he saved during his career (39.6%).• For more Elias Says, Click here.
"For a guy who has pitched as a closer for less than 10 years,
and to have been as consistent as he has been, to get there as
quickly as he did, it's just remarkable," Torre said. "I've been
very fortunate. He's been with me the whole time I've been here. I
can't tell you what that means."With a four-run lead suddenly down to two, Torre pulled setup
man Kyle Farnsworth with two runners on and none out in the eighth.
The sellout crowd of 54,781 burst into a huge ovation as Rivera
entered.After seven pitches, the Yankees were out of trouble in the
eighth.Rivera, who saved the All-Star game for the AL on Tuesday night
and closed out Chicago on Friday, retired Juan Uribe on a popup
before speedy Scott Podsednik grounded into an inning-ending double
play."Every time I go out there, it's business," Rivera said. "I
respect everyone, and I hope I get that respect back."Chicago's first two batters reached safely in the ninth, but
Rivera induced a double-play grounder from Paul Konerko and struck
out Jermaine Dye to end it."For me, and I've said it, he has the single best pitch ever in
the game," Chicago's Jim Thome said. "A lot of guys, you can make
some adjustments. But not with that cutter."It was Rivera's 21st save in 23 chances. The other pitchers with
400 saves are Lee Smith (478), Trevor Hoffman (460) and John Franco
(424)."On the field and off the field, Hall of Fame," Chicago
manager Ozzie Guillen said. "Young people should look up to him.
He's the perfect player."New York has won seven of eight since a 19-1 drubbing in
Cleveland on July 4. The Yankees are a season-high 17 games above
.500.The World Series champion White Sox have dropped five of six to
the Red Sox and Yankees during a stretch that spanned the break.
Chicago's stellar starting pitchers are struggling, and its
All-Star sluggers failed to deliver in clutch situations all
weekend."The middle of the lineup came up and they didn't come through.
You've got to take advantage and do it," Guillen said. "I'm not
worried about my pitching staff. They'll come out of it."The White Sox begin a three-game series at AL Central-leading
Detroit on Tuesday.A.J. Pierzynski homered for Chicago, and Tadahito Iguchi matched
a career high with four hits. Podsednik reached safely four times
from the leadoff spot.Due to injuries, the Yankees started a makeshift outfield of
Melky Cabrera, Bubba Crosby and Aaron Guiel -- not exactly Mantle,
Maris and Elston Howard.But the plug-ins came through. Cabrera doubled, scored and threw
out a runner at the plate to thwart a rally. Crosby hit an RBI
double, and Guiel cut down a runner at second base from right
field.A sacrifice fly by pinch-hitter Brian Anderson against Ron
Villone trimmed Chicago's deficit to 6-3 in the sixth, and Uribe
followed with a single to left. But Cabrera made a perfect throw to
the plate on the fly, easily nailing Joe Crede to end the inning."I think by far our three best games," New York's Jason Giambi
said. "We've come together great as a team. We're doing little
things, we're getting big hits when we need them, our starting
pitching is really starting to come together."Jeter's error at shortstop left Chicago with two on and none out
in the seventh. But Mike Myers and Farnsworth combined to set down
Thome, Konerko and Dye.Thome put Chicago ahead with an RBI double in the first, but
third baseman Rodriguez started a difficult double play on Dye to
end the inning.The homers by Jeter and Rodriguez (his 20th) in the bottom half
put the Yankees in front to stay. It was Jeter's first in 190
at-bats since May 16.
Yankees CF Johnny Damon was held out of the lineup because
of stiffness in his calf. ... Garcia has allowed a team-high 22
homers in 19 starts.