Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer ever. And the All-Star Game tribute that New York Yankees legend received fully supported the above the claim.
In the bottom of the eighth inning Tuesday, Rivera trotted in from the bullpen to his class tune, “Enter Sandman” by Metallica, while 45,000-plus fans stood on their feet as they witnessed Rivera’s historic last All-Star appearance.
But while Rivera’s forte is retiring hitters in the ninth inning, AL manager Jim Leyland of the Detroit Tigers had a tough decision to ensure Rivera entered the game.
With the AL leading 3-0, Leyland opted to put Rivera in for the eighth inning rather than risk the NL rallying to take the lead -- in which case there would be no bottom of the ninth. It would have been a different case if the game were played in an AL park, since either way the ninth inning would belong to Rivera, but at Citi Field, the NL could have won the game in 8.5 innings if they could have scratched out a few runs.
It seems the baseball world has supported Leyland’s decision, especially since the tribute was a moving sendoff to the greatest closer of all time.
Just imagine the backlash that Leyland would have received if Rivera were unable to be used in his last of what are now 13 All-Star appearances. He would have never heard the end of it.
It’s not like the AL had a weak bullpen, but if Texas Rangers closer Joe Nathan had pitched the eighth inning in a setup role for Rivera and happened to blow the lead, Nathan too would be highly scrutinized.
Though the NL squad managed only two hits by the start of the eighth inning, the potential for a game-tying or go-ahead rally was of course there, since it was still the All-Star team. It wound up not happening, but Leyland wanted to ensure that the fans got to see Rivera in an All-Star Game one last time.
Nathan could just have easily retired the side in order in the eighth instead of Rivera, which would have set up an epic ninth inning. But even so, when we look back at the 2013 All-Star Game, we’ll remember Rivera standing along on the field and receiving a nearly two-minute standing ovation.
We’ll also remember that Rivera -- in typical Rivera fashion -- dominated the opposing hitters. He threw only 16 pitched en route to a 1-2-3 inning and earned MVP honors for his performance.
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