NEW YORK (AP) - Now that save No. 602 is behind him, Mariano Rivera is happy to step back out of the spotlight and work on another big number: six.
“You know me, I’m not like that,” Rivera said. “I like to be under the radar, do my job.”
There was no chance of that Monday afternoon, when the smallest crowd in the three-year history of Yankee Stadium nearly drowned out Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” as Rivera came in for the ninth inning.
They hollered with every pitch _ and there weren’t many of them. Rivera retired the Twins’ Trevor Plouffe, Michael Cuddyer and Chris Parmelee to end the Yankees‘ 6-4 win over Minnesota and break Trevor Hoffman’s mark.
Rivera even broke a bat for good measure _ sawing off Parmelee and sending the rookie back to the dugout for another piece of wood.
Parmelee lasted only one more pitch. Plate umpire John Hirschbeck rung him up, and catcher Russell Martin came out to the mound, gently placed the ball in Rivera’s glove, then gave him a big hug.
Never comfortable in the spotlight, Rivera didn’t know quite what to do.
He proved equal to the moment yet again. Rivera smiled, blew a kiss to the crowd, and then doffed his cap as cheers washed over him.
“For the first time in my career, I’m on the mound alone,” Rivera said. “It was priceless. I didn’t know it could be like that.”
Rivera’s may have been the more remarkable achievement, considering the slender right-hander throws mostly one pitch. Opposing hitters have seen it for years, but still haven’t figured it out.
“It’s amazing,” Cuddyer said. “You’ve got a 99 percent chance of knowing what’s coming, and he still is able to go out there and dominate.”