MINNEAPOLIS -- The shards of lumber littered in front of home plate at Target Field told pitching coach Dave Eiland everything he needed to know. Mariano Rivera's touch was back.
Rivera locked down the 40th postseason save of his illustrious career in Wednesday's American League Division Series Game 1, securing the final four outs of the Yankees' 6-4 victory over the Twins and making strides toward erasing whatever doubts there might have been about the 40-year-old closer's mechanics.
"He knew what he was doing -- it was just a matter of correcting it, and he did," Eiland said. "That's why you saw the broken bats tonight. It's that late movement, that late cut. When Mo starts breaking bats, you know he's got his good stuff."
Rivera blew three of six save opportunities through a stretch in September, raising red flags, but Eiland spotted a flaw in Rivera's hand position on the baseball. That was limiting the amount of movement Rivera's cutter would have as it darted to home plate, and after a couple of bullpen sessions in Toronto last week, the problem appears to be fixed.
"You have a chance to be in the playoffs and an opportunity to pitch in the playoffs -- it's a blessing," Rivera said. "[My] command was better. Everything was better -- the result was better. Thank God for that. I'll keep doing what I need to do."
After inducing Denard Span to hit into a broken-bat groundout, leaving two men aboard in the eighth inning, Rivera chipped Orlando Hudson's bat on a grounder to start the ninth. Joe Mauer hit a ball back to the mound that Rivera knocked down and tossed to first for the second out, and Rivera appeared to get the final out on a Delmon Young liner that Greg Golson snared with a shoestring catch.
But the play was ruled a trap, despite the Yankees' protests to the contrary, so Rivera went back to work against Jim Thome and got the slugger to pop out to Alex Rodriguez at third base for the last out, securing his 17th career ALDS save and his 11th career postseason save of 1 1/3 innings.
"We cannot count those," Rivera said. "It's part of the game. You just have to get the next guy."