- Andrew Marchand, ESPN Senior Writer
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NEW YORK -- The more than 46,000 in attendance knew they had witnessed something unusual: The greatest closer of all time looked like any other closer on Sunday.
Mariano Rivera blew a save on a grand slam.
The Yankee Stadium crowd sat stunned. How quiet was it?
"You ever been here at 3 o'clock in the afternoon?" Alex Rodriguez would say after the rare sight occurred.
With a 3-1 lead to protect and the bases loaded against the Twins, Joe Girardi called in Rivera with two outs in the eighth, and Rivera blew it.
He not only blew it, but it was ugly. Rivera gave up a grand slam to the .225-hitting Jason Kubel in the Yankees' 6-3 loss to the Twins.
Before Kubel's slam, Rivera walked Jim Thome to force in a run. The 40-year-old Rivera always takes his media medicine like a pro. Sunday was no different, and he beat himself up over the walk more than the home run.
"You have control of that," said Rivera, who hadn't needed to talk to the media about a blown save at home since the old ballpark was alive 51 chances ago in August 2007. "Home run? Anything can happen. Walking in a run is unacceptable."
May 6, 2005 was the last time Mariano Rivera walked a batter with the bases loaded.
From then until facing Thome, Rivera had faced 29 hitters with the bases loaded and didn't walk any of them. In fact, he went to three-ball counts only twice (one of which was with a five-run lead).
The place was quiet because perhaps, to borrow an old Jack Buck line, they couldn't believe what they just saw. Rivera not only gave up a slam but also allowed his first run of the year after 11 scoreless innings.
As for the slam, the last time it happened was 2002. While the Indians' Bill Selby hit only 11 home runs in his career, one of them was the only other grand slam Rivera had allowed as a reliever until Sunday. Way back in 1995, he gave up two as a starter.
With the Red Sox, Rays and Mets on the plate for a big baseball week, the fans may have also looked a little confused, because they are not used to seeing the Twins win. The loss snapped the Yankees' 12-game winning streak against Minnesota.
This left Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire reaching for the remote control.
"Kubel got a hold of a cutter that hadn't cut yet," Gardenhire said. "You should probably have recorded that because it's probably not something you will often see."
When Rivera blows a save, everyone in the Yankees clubhouse reminds reporters that, yes, the greatest closer of all time is actually made of flesh and blood.
"Times like this, you are going to realize he is human," Derek Jeter said.
A-Rod added, "Mo's human."
Girardi usually leaves humanity out of his decisions. He likes to stay the course and usually is loathe to use Rivera for a four-out regular-season save. Sunday was different. With Sergio Mitre starting, and Damaso Marte and Boone Logan unavailable, Girardi decided early he might have to use Rivera for more than three outs.
This became a reality after Joba Chamberlain struggled. Chamberlain allowed two hits and a walk, while picking up two outs.
"I wouldn't have asked him to give us five," Girardi said of Rivera.
Rivera gave his manager only one out, and by then it was too late. The 46,620 in attendance could not believe what they had witnessed. Rivera is human, but they may not see it again until 2018.
Rivera's blown save snapped a streak of 51 straight home saves, according to Elias Sports Bureau. ... Girardi said the Yankees likely will activate Chan Ho Park before Monday's game with the Red Sox. ... Joba Chamberlain almost escaped the eighth before Rivera came in. With two men out, a tricky Michael Cuddyer liner went in and out of Mark Teixeira's glove. "I would have loved to have made that play for Joba," Teixeira said. ... Nick Swisher is unable to hit lefty because of his biceps injury. He said it may take a day or two more of not hitting lefty, adding the team wants to be cautious because he doesn't want to tear it further and miss the rest of the year.
2dKevin Van Valkenburg