It can’t be understated how great Mariano Rivera was at what he did. Having the most saves in history is only the tip of the iceberg to what made Mo so valuable, and his longevity with the Yankees is unparalleled. That being said, with such a long history of greatness there are bound to be moments of downfall. These five moments stand out as some of the worst in Mariano’s career.
5) May 28, 2013 against the Mets
This day won’t stand out on its own among the other moments in the list, but it’s here for a reason. In Mo’s final season he blew his first save of the year in this appearance on the road against the Mets. Rivera failed to record a single out, giving up a ground rule double to Daniel Murphy and singles to David Wright and Lucas Duda to blow the lead and the game.
This however, was the only game in Rivera’s career where he blew the save and ultimately lost the game before he could record an out. It’s wild to think that in the many games that Mo pitched throughout his career, this was the only time where he truly had nothing on that day.
4) 1997 ALDS Game Four against the Indians
Mariano only blew four saves in his entire postseason career. That’s less saves blown than World Series rings. Unfortunately, one of them came in his first season as the team’s closer. Tasked with getting a five-out save to secure the series, Mo worked a fly ball out to right from the first batter he faced. Then Sandy Alomar took him deep to right, and the Indians began a comeback to eventually take the ALDS from the Yankees the next day.
3) May 3, 2012 in Kauffman Stadium
This moment lives in infamy despite Rivera never seeing time in the game played that day. That’s because Mo received a devastating knee injury while shagging balls in the outfield during pregame on this day, ending his season and causing panic about it potentially ending his career. Mariano put that talk to rest quickly and recovered from ACL surgery to pitch in one more season, but Mo was robbed of a final postseason run by this unlucky incident.
2) 2004 ALCS against the Red Sox
We are all well aware of what went wrong in these next two moments, but as unbearable as they are, they define how powerful the small amount of shortcomings in Mo’s career were. The 2004 ALCS went from business as usual to a nightmare for a number of reasons, but one of them was a rare moment of mortality by Rivera. The Sox got to Mo twice in this series, preventing the sweep in Game Four and changing the momentum of the series in Game Five to bring it back to New York.
The blown save in Game Four stands out because of the iconic steal current Dodgers manager Dave Roberts managed to swipe after getting checked at first three consecutive times. Roberts slid into second, and went all the way home on a single from Bill Mueller. Rivera eventually got out of the inning, but the game continued and the Sox began the comeback that preceded all of their annoyingness through the last decade or so.
1) 2001 World Series Game 7 against the Diamondbacks
You could argue that the Red Sox moment hurt more in the long term, but strictly talking about Mariano’s career no other moment compares to the ninth inning of Game Seven in the 2001 World Series. The finality of the moment, both for the Yankees’ hopes of claiming another championship as well as the dynasty run, is incomparable. Furthering the pain is the fact that Rivera both got beat, and beat himself.
After striking out the side in the eighth inning, Mo had three outs to fly another flag for the Yankees. The inning started auspiciously though, with Mark Grace’s single to center. Damian Miller’s bunt to Rivera truly set up the scene, as Mariano misfired on his throw to second and gave the Diamondbacks runners on with no outs. Pinch hitter Jay Bell forced Rivera to field another bunt that was successfully converted to an out at third, but Tony Womack slapped a double to right that blew the save. Luis Gonzalez came up a batter later and Rivera got his signature result in a broken bat, but the ball pushed its way over the heads of the infield and ended it all.
The takeaway from all of this is that most of the moments are considerable low moments in Yankee fandom over the course of Rivera’s career. And these are pretty much the only moments where Rivera truly failed. Yes he’s blown his share of games, but considering his track record Mo was money in the bank every time he took the field. The Yankees, and the rest of baseball, won’t see someone like Rivera come around for a long time, if ever again. So it’s good to look back on where things looked rough, to remind us of how great we had it the rest of the time.