In his typical workmanlike fashion, the esteemed Yankees closer tore through the three hitters the Twins offered in the top of the ninth Monday at Yankee Stadium, becoming Major League Baseball's all-time career saves leader with 602.
And after Rivera embraced each member of the Yankees -- and with the visiting Twins standing atop the steps of their dugout looking on -- Rivera was urged by teammates to soak in the moment. He stepped back onto the mound and tipped his cap to the crowd, which offered him a rousing ovation.
And in pefect Mariano Rivera fashion, he was all smiles. And all alone at the top.
"For the first time in my career, I am on the mound alone," Rivera said afterward, speaking to the media with his three sons by his side. "There was nobody behind me, nobody in front of me, and I'm still surrounded by so many people. I can't describe that feeling. It was priceless. It was a moment I didn't know could be like that. I was thanking God in that moment."
The outing was so Rivera-esque -- he took down Trevor Plouffe, Michael Cuddyer and Chris Parmelee in order, and even induced a customary broken bat -- as the future Hall of Famer ended the game catching Parmelee looking with the same lethal cutter that has troubled hitters throughout Rivera's 17-year career.
"Definitely a special moment, 602," said catcher Russell Martin, who was behind the dish for the feat. "All-time leader in saves, that's pretty incredible. It couldn't happen to a better guy. His work ethic, how he prepares himself every day, he's one of the greatest. He is the greatest now."
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In preserving the 6-4 Yankees victory in the Bronx, Rivera was able to accomplish the feat in front of the home fans and with his family in attendance. He passed Trevor Hoffman on the all-time list, the only player in baseball history with more 40-save seasons (nine) than Rivera (eight).
"I want to congratulate Mariano Rivera on setting the all-time saves record," Hoffman said. "It's a great accomplishment, and he is still going strong! I have tremendous respect for Mariano not just for his on-field accomplishments, but also for his service to the community."
"You don't see this every day," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who has had the unique opportunity to be alongside Rivera both as his manager and as his catcher. "You're not around people like this every day, that come to work every day, give their heart and soul, and are always prepared to pitch."
Remarkably, the 41-year-old is as steadfast as ever. It's the seventh time in his illustrious career he has recorded at least 43 saves in a season (1997, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2005 and 2009). In an era when successful ninth-inning men have the shelf life of a handful of seasons, Rivera has already converted 10 more saves than last year (33), and he could have a few more years ahead of him.
"This is an important moment," said Jorge Posada, who came up with Rivera through the ranks and has caught Rivera in 461 games (next is Girardi with 137). "Nobody ever is going to get even close to this. There are so many intangibles that you have to achieve to get here that it's amazing that we're watching it, and we're watching it right in front of us. We're spoiled when he comes into the ballgame, because he's been able to do it for so long."
Early on Monday, it appeared Rivera's services would not be needed as the first-place Yankees jumped out to a 5-0 lead on a depleted and inexperienced Twins lineup. In fact, Yankees fans were thrilled the club didn't extend it's two-run lead in the eighth. Nick Swisher grounded into a double play, and the place went wild.
"Greatest double play of my life, man," Swisher said. "It took me a quick second to figure out what was going on, but then it sunk in real fast."
And with New York clutching that two-run lead in the ninth, the bullpen door swung open as Rivera emerged with the familiar opening guitar riff and drum beat from Metallica's "Enter Sandman" blaring. And what has become perhaps the most legendary custom in the Yankees' rich history commenced.
Rivera trotted in from the outfield, clutching his glove in his right hand with his eyes focused on the mound ahead of him, while the Yankee Stadium crowd rose to its feet. It would grow louder still through the 1-2-3 ninth as the ever-dominant reliever uncorked one more save for the record books.
"It's unbelievable what he's been able to accomplish in this game," said Twins reliever Joe Nathan, with 260 career saves to his name. "The right guy is the all-time career saves leader, that's for sure. To be able to do it that long -- for the period of time he has -- and to stay healthy is quite an accomplishment. I'm just excited to be here. We were here for one day and we got a chance to witness it. It was pretty cool."
Certainly, the Yankees agreed that they would have not nearly the success they've had through this era without the services of their indelible closer. The team is 633-41 all-time in games that Rivera has had a save chance, and he owns a remarkable 0.71 ERA in 139 2/3 innings of postseason work. No one has more postseason appearances (94), and with his 42 saves in the playoffs, the next reliever behind him is Brad Lidge with 18.
"It's a lot of wins for the Yankees, I know that," Girardi said. "It's a lot of World Series championships, a lot of playoff bids. It's a number that I really don't think we'll see surpassed in our lifetime. Will it happen one day? I don't know, but I'd be shocked if it happened in our lifetime."