NEW YORK -- Mariano Rivera has spoiled the Yankees over his 19-year career. The future Hall of Fame closer has had 721 save opportunities in his career, and he's converted 89 percent of them.
That's what makes his performance over his last three games so hard to believe.
On Wednesday, Rivera gave up an RBI single to Adam Dunn to blow a save against the White Sox. On Friday, he gave up a two-run home run to Miguel Cabrera to give away a lead against the Tigers. And on Sunday, he gave up two home runs for the fifth time in his career to blow a third straight save for the first time in his career.
"I just try to go out there and do my job," Rivera said after the game. "The last three opportunities, I haven't done it."
Entering Sunday's game with a 4-2 lead in the ninth inning, Rivera gave up solo home runs to Cabrera and Victor Martinez, marking the first time in his career he's given up two home runs in a save situation.
Cabrera became the third right-hander to hit two career home runs off Rivera -- the other two are Edgar Martinez and Evan Longoria -- and the first player to ever hit home runs in two consecutive at-bats against Rivera.
"To Martinez, that ball was just laying right flat up. And also with Miguel," Rivera said. "You're facing professional hitters. If you don't put the ball where you need to, you're going to get hit."
Rivera has now given up five runs on seven hits over his last four innings, raising his season ERA from 1.56 to 2.44.
When asked if there was a level of concern over Rivera's recent struggles, Joe Girardi didn't say a word. He just held up his right hand and formed a zero.
"It's not like you forget how to pitch in a week," the Yankees manager said. "He just had a bad week."
The Yankees wound up losing in 12 innings in Chicago on Wednesday, but they managed to win both games in which Rivera faltered against the Tigers. Center fielder Brett Gardner bailed out the Yankees closer in both, hitting a walk-off single in the 10th inning on Friday and a walk-off home run in the ninth on Sunday.
"That doesn't happen very often," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "It's not very often you get Mariano Rivera twice in the same series and don't win either game."
"It's shocking," Yankees starter Andy Pettitte said. "He spoils us all. Anytime you see him blow one, much less three, it's shocking.
"But I don't think it's going to faze him, and it's not going to faze anybody in this locker room," he said. "We'll go out there when we've got the lead, and feel extremely confident when we've got the lead and him going into the game."
Rivera didn't seem fazed after the game. He said he knows he's made mistakes over his past three outings, and he just needs to throw the ball where he wants to.
Besides, even though he blew his third straight save chance on Sunday, the Yankees are 2-1 in those games.
Said Rivera: "That's the most important thing."
Josh Vitale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less