Shortly after his retirement in 2013, Mariano Rivera wrote a book about his experiences in baseball called The Closer: My Story. My wife happened across a copy of the book recently and picked it up for me as a surprise gift, and as you might guess, there was one event in particular that I was anxious to see if he covered: Aug. 9, 2013, top of the ninth inning, Miguel Cabrera at the plate with two outs, a runner on base, and the Tigers trailing 3-1.
You remember that game, of course. What Tigers fan could forget it?
Luckily, Rivera did indeed include this memory in his book, mostly because this game was part of an unusual "first" in his long career. Cabrera's home run made it Rivera's second blown save in a row, and when Miggy did it to him again two days later, that marked the first time that Rivera had ever blown three consecutive saves.
Here's how that at-bat went down, according to Rivera:
After I get the first out, Austin Jackson hits a double to left center. I get Torii Hunter on a comebacker. Now Miguel Cabrera, hulking Venezuelan ball crusher, the best hitter in baseball, walks to the plate. It's down to the two of us. Cabrera is hitting .358 with thirty-three home runs (it's early August, mind you), and as usual, he's hitting the ball to every part of every ballpark. I approach him the same way I approach every hitter; it doesn't change because of who he is. Sometimes I might pitch to a particular weakness a guy might have, but in the case of Cabrera, there really is no weakness, so I just go after him.
After a few minutes he limps back in the box, and I fire again on the inner half, and this time he fouls it off his shin. Now he is limping even more.
All I want is to get this game over with. I try to get him to go after a pitch that breaks off the outside corner. He doesn't bite. The seventh pitch of the at-bat is coming. The way he is swinging at my cutter tells me he could be vulnerable to a two-seam fastball; it's a hard sinker and if I hit the right spot down and in I think it will get him. It is my best shot, I believe, because it's a given that he is expecting another cutter. I make my deep forward-bend and come set, then fire a two-seam fastball, violating Wetteland's gospel, because I believe I can fool Cabrera by throwing what he's not expecting. I might've, too, except that the ball goes over the heart of the plate, and just sits there. Now he rips away and the minute he makes contact I drop my head on the mound. I know where it's going to land.
In the black.
Over the center-field fence.
No need to watch Brett Gardner give chase.
Wow, I say, as Cabrera hobbles around the bases. The wow is as much about what just happened as it is about the gift of hitting Miguel Cabrera has been blessed with. He handled two pitches that usually would've ended the game. He extended his at-bat.
And then he beat me.
Of course, now that you've read it, you want to see it again.
"There really is no weakness, so I just go after him ... and then he beat me."
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go do something about these goosebumps.