x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

With the Yankees all is well when it ends with Mariano Rivera

Once again the New York Yankees have Mariano Rivera to depend upon, and the closer is not disappointing as he keeps the Yanks close to the top of the American League's best in the first half of the season.

New York Yankees catcher Chris Stewart, left, congratulates closer Mariano Rivera after another successful save.
New York Yankees catcher Chris Stewart, left, congratulates closer Mariano Rivera after another successful save.

Another bad break for New York Yankees?

Normally, one would think so, after outfielder Curtis Granderson went back on the disabled list last week, just 10 days after he had returned to the line-up.

Instead, the way things are going for the Yanks, you might expect them to shrug off this latest injury and extend their lead in the American League East.

So far, manager Joe Girardi's team has overcome devastating injuries to star players and their statistical shortcomings, and built the second-best record in the American League (AL), and are top of the AL East.

"When you look at the stats, we're not at the top of anything," said Girardi after an extra-inning, comeback win against Baltimore Orioles last week.

Not the traditional markers, anyway. Yankees pitchers are a respectable eighth in earned-run average (ERA) among the 30 major league teams, and a mediocre 15th in runs scored. Other numbers that tell a better story. The Yanks are 21-1 when scoring first and are 23-0 when leading after six innings. Hall of Fame-bound closer Mariano Rivera is 18 for 18 in save opportunities.

In sum, this is not a team that gives up leads. In the Bronx this season, it is not about their usual thing - big home runs.

It is about the stopping bullpen.

Most observers predicted, at the very least, a dire first half of the season with third baseman Alex Rodriguez, shortstop Derek Jeter, first baseman Mark Teixiera and right fielder Granderson all on the disabled list.

To this point, only Granderson has played - eight games - before getting hit with a pitch, again, and breaking the knuckle on his left pinkie.

Much credit for the Yankees' success has been given to the journeymen who have filled in admirably, such as Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner and Lyle Overbay. Veteran pitchers CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda have also been solid.

But nothing has meant more than their relievers. Dave Robertson (2.66 ERA) has been setting up for Rivera for several years, so his contribution is not a surprise. But supporting members of the bullpen - left-hander Boone Logan (1.88) and right-hander Adam Warren (1.14) - have also kept opponents at bay.

The foundation, of course, remains Rivera. The 43 year old was supposed to retire after last season, but a torn ACL in his right knee sidelined him.

He has returned in peak form.

In 18.1 innings, he has given up just three runs (1.40 ERA) and allowed 16 baserunners while staying perfect as a closer.

"It's not normal, what he does," Wells told Newsday.

Because of that, they are still the first-place Yankees.

 

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