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Saturday, November 29 2014 @ 02:17 AM EST

Mariano Rivera Gets Number 601 - Ties Trevor Hoffman On All Time Saves List

Sports Section#Panama TORONTO – Less than an hour had passed since Mariano Rivera arrived at a peak reached previously by just one other man. Yet, last week, when the Yankees closer reached career save No. 600, he didn't seem interested in savoring the view. Sure, 600 was a nice round, number, but Rivera admitted that he had his mind on something much bigger. He already had set his sights on the summit -- career save No. 602 -- the magic mark would make the all-time saves record all his own. He's almost there. After closing out the Yankees' 7-6 victory against the Blue Jays today, Rivera notched career save No. 601, pulling even on the all-time list with the record-holder Trevor Hoffman. The next one will give the record to Rivera and nobody else.

Before the opening game of the series yesterday, Blue Jays manager John Farrell described the thoughts that pass through the mind of an opposing skipper when Rivera enters a game, an experience he lived through today when the bullpen gate swung open in the ninth. “You're hoping you don't break too many bats, and you're hoping you get a chance to put some quality at-bats together,” Farrell said. “You know it's got a chance to be a quick 1-2-3. You know you have you've got hands full every time he walks onto the mound.”

And they did. Leadoff hitter Colby Rasmus fell behind 0-2, rallied in the count, then walked back to the dugout when Rivera froze him on a fastball over the outside corner. Replays showed that home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor might have lent an assist. Rivera then broke Brett Lawrie's bat, his penalty for trying to slap a cutter the other away. Instead, the ball caught the end of the bat, snapping it. Eric Thames made official when he flied out to center.

The historic achievement capped a Yankees comeback. Through five innings, the Yankees trailed 6-1, the result of an abbreviated outing by right-hander Bartolo Colon. The veteran allowed all the runs in just four innings, his shortest outing since July 14, when the Blue Jays didn't let Colon out of the first inning.

But Alex Rodriguez changed the course of the game. Playing in his first game since Sept. 9, when he re-aggravated a sprain in his left thumb, Rodriguez smashed a three-run homer off starter Henderson Alvarez. The homer keyed a four-run outburst in the sixth that brought the Yankees to within a run.

Curtis Granderson put the Yankees ahead for good in the seventh, ending a 12-pitch at-bat by smashing his 40th homer of the season. Until this year, Granderson had never hit more than 30 in a season. He fouled off seven pitches before getting one he could handle from reliever Carlos Villanueva.

With the lead for the first time all day, the Yankees set the stage for their closer. Rookie Hector Noesi followed up two innings of scoreless relief by Scott Proctor and Aaron Laffey with a clean inning of his own, retiring the Jays in order in the seventh. In the eighth, Rafael Soriano followed suit, throwing up a zero to complete the hand-off to Rivera.

Rivera's family hadn't bothered to make the trip to the West Coast to see him reach save No. 600. But with Hoffman's milestone approaching, they made it to Toronto, and watched from the stands as Rivera took one more step toward history.

Once again, Rivera can say that he's recorded more saves (42) than his age (41). He has converted on each of his last 13 chances. For the season, he trails only the Tigers' Jose Valverde (45) for the American League saves lead.

But for his career, Rivera trails no one.

Editor's Comment: The first time Trevor Hoffman's name appeared on this website was on 20 November 2007, now almost four years ago. At that time Mariano Rivera had just signed a new contract for three years worth $45 million dollars with the New York Yankees during the off season. At that time, between seasons, Rivera was third on the all time saves list with 443, behind Trevor Hoffman who had 524 at the time and was still pitching, and retired closer Lee Smith who had 478. Since then I've been following Mariano Rivera's career closely and waiting for this day. That was 158 saves ago, or 158 wins for the New York Yankees, wrapped up in a bow and put nicely in the bag, thanks to that killer cutter. When Mariano finally notches up number 602 and takes over sole possession of first place, he will be doing so at the top of his game. Hoffman barely limped to the 601 total at the end of this career, a shadow of what he once was. In contrast Mariano Rivera keeps mowing them down. And it looks like he's going to be able to tack on a whole lot more. Mariano has set a lot of records but this is the "big one" - the one that's going to stand for a long, long time. When it happens and when he speaks to the press after the game, I hope he remembers to mention Panama and Puerto Caimito, the place where he grew up.

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