Relief is still spelled with an “M”

Yankees fans can expect many more post-save handshakes from Mo. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

He does this every now and then. Goes through a string of appearances where he demonstrates that he’s truly human and not a gift from the baseball gods forged from steel and left on a mound in pinstripes. Mariano Rivera blew another save on Sunday. That’s two in a row after not allowing a run in 8.1 innings over nine outings this young baseball season. To put it into perspective, Rivera hasn’t blown back-to-back saves since April 2007.

Whenever Mo starts to falter, everyone starts to question (or freak out if you’re a Yankee fan). Is this it? Is the game’s greatest closer finally toast? Is he finally too old? Has the Sandman turned to dust?

I used to be part of the freak-out contingency. I also used to get angry, but I can’t do that anymore. Rivera has saved too many games for the Yankees, during both the regular season and the playoffs. His longevity at a position where players normally crash and burn after a few hot seasons is a testament to both his talent and his wicked cutter … a cutter that was cutting a little too much against the Orioles.

Of course, part of the problem was that Girardi had to tinker with a good thing on Sunday. Freddy Garcia rolled through six shutout innings and was at only 90 pitches. But hey, let’s call the bullpen, which was missing set-up man Rafael Soriano because of an aching back. Joba Chamberlain entered in the seventh and promptly gave up a two-run homer to Mark Reynolds. Shutout gone. Game on.

In the eighth, Girardi called on Rivera with two outs and two on, and if not for an amazing play by Brett “The Jet” Gardner, the game would have been tied sooner. The Camden Yard faithful (oh, who are we kidding, most of the people in the stands were in Yankee garb) had to wait until the bottom of the ninth to see Rivera give up the tying run.

Total crisis was averted in Yankeeland. The Bombers were able to rally and win the game thanks to a three-run 11th inning and a fine performance (finally) by Boone Logan. But the story is going to be Rivera … until he saves yet another game and makes it look like a walk in the (ball)park. Because in New York, relief is still spelled with an M.

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