In shadows of '01, Mo prevails

In shadows of '01, Mo prevails

PHOENIX -- The moment was ripe with symbolism when Mariano Rivera took the mound in the bottom of the ninth inning on Wednesday night at Chase Field, the scene of one his few baseball disasters.

All series, the D-backs had hearkened back to their victory in the 2001 World Series. They showed the tape of Luis Gonzalez getting his bloop hit off Rivera to win Game 7. They even announced that Gonzo's No. 20 will be the first in franchise history to be retired.

Manager Joe Girardi said he was cognizant of the symbolism.

"I started thinking about that when Mo went into the game," said Girardi, who was not a member of that 2001 Yankees team but played on earlier title winners. "They showed Louie Gonzalez on the screen. I'm well aware of what he looks like from playing against him so much. There were some thoughts in my head."

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There were evidently no such thoughts in Rivera's head. The right-hander was able to do on Wednesday night what he couldn't back then -- close down a 6-5 Yankees win. He did so in dramatic fashion, loading the bases with no outs in the 10th, then retiring the next three batters in order, including a swinging strikeout of Mark Reynolds to end the game. Rivera's personal best of 24 batters retired in a row went by the wayside when Stephen Drew singled to open the inning.

The win was the 72nd of Rivera's storied career, coupled with 542 regular-season saves. Add eight more postseason wins and a record 39 playoff saves, but he certainly doesn't seem concerned with the one that got away nearly nine years ago.

"It's 2010," Rivera said. "All I'm trying to do is get three outs. What happened back then definitely wasn't a factor."

The biggest blown save of Rivera's career occurred on Nov. 4, 2001, when Gonzalez dumped a single over the head of a drawn-in Derek Jeter at shortstop and the D-backs won it all.

"That hit seems to get deeper and deeper out there with time," Gonzalez said. "It was no secret what I was trying to do -- I was just trying to make contact. What makes that win so special to us was that it came against the best reliever in the history of the game."

Rivera already had purged those dragons. Just like the perfect ninth inning he pitched on Wednesday, Rivera worked a 1-2-3 inning for the save in a 4-2 win at what was then called Bank One Ballpark on June 15, 2004, the last time the Yankees played a three-game series here.

The D-backs were still decked in black and purple then rather than what they now call Sedona Red. On the field now, there's no one left from that 2001 team, save Matt Williams, who is the first-base coach. Mark Grace is in the broadcast booth. Gonzalez was named a team vice president last year.

The Yankees still have their core four -- Rivera, Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada.

Gonzalez's hit was a singular moment in D-backs history, their only World Series appearance and title. For the Yanks, it was just a blip on the screen, one of 40 trips to the World Series, of which they've won 27.

"It's been nine years," Gonzalez said. "Next year will be the 10-year anniversary. As a player, you learn to move on. It was a great moment in Arizona history. We were hanging on and grasping for that one moment. We've been close in football, one play away from winning a Super Bowl. Our basketball team has come close. Our hockey team has been to the playoffs. So far, the D-backs have provided the only winning moment that our fans have been able to hold onto.

"And it wasn't done against any normal team. It was done against the New York Yankees."

There are similarities to the two the games. Rivera was called upon to get the last out of the eighth inning in the World Series. He was asked to pitch the final two full innings on Wednesday night. With the Yankees holding a 2-1 lead in Game 7, Grace opened the ninth with a single. With the Yanks holding a 6-5 lead on Wednesday night, Drew opened the 10th with a single. The two innings took widely divergent paths from there.

Rivera, 40 now but 31 then, is one of the best at putting failure behind him.

"I can't be concerned with what other people think and whatever people do," Rivera said. "I control what I do. Whoever is thinking [of the past], that's their thing. Not mine."

Asked how he copes with the thrills and disappointments, Rivera added: "I just put it behind me."

Consider it done. The ghosts of that 2001 World Series have been left in the past.

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.