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Official scoring technicality gives Mariano Rivera win instead of save 97

We’ve all seen the scene, in fact over 650 times.  The Yankees are clinging to a one-run lead in the 9th inning, out from the bullpen comes the greatest closer of all time, and if you’re in Yankee Stadium, Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” is blaring over the speakers.  Somewhere between 10 and 15 pitches (and 4 or 5 broken bats later), handshakes all around for #42 as he nails down another win for the Yankees and Mariano Rivera pads his insurmountable career lead in saves.  It all played out per the script on Thursday night in Baltimore except there was no Metallica (as the game was at Camden Yards), and Mariano Rivera was credited for being the WINNING pitcher with no save (as one of the qualifications to get a save is that the pitcher “cannot be the winning pitcher”).  Yes he came in with a lead, yes he finished the game with one inning pitched.  So what gives?  Judgment by the official scorer.  According to

Official scorer Mark Jacobson invoked Rule 10.17 (c) to not give a victory to Yankees reliever David Robertson in New York’s 6-5 win over the Orioles, ruling that Robertson’s eighth-inning appearance had been “ineffective and brief.”

Robertson failed to protect a 3-run cushion in the 8th inning (1 IP, 3 Runs).  It was unclear who would have been in line for the victory had he protected the lead, because starting pitcher Phil Hughes did not make the requisite 5 innings to qualify, so it probably would have been David Huff who tossed three effective innings.  So Robertson cost Huff with his poor outing and the official scorer did not feel compelled to reward him with the victory when the Yankees tallied one in the top of the 9th.  The full rule points the scorer to reward a succeeding (not preceding) pitcher to get the victory, Rivera was the only pitcher to meet that criteria.

Credit: AP/Kathy Willens

A familiar scene to end a Yankees game
Credit: AP/Kathy Willens

In a stat-crazed sport, this might matter should someone ever challenge Rivera’s career saves lead.  Imagine of one of Hank Aaron’s home runs was ruled an administrative double with a 2-run error.  Rivera had no beef with the call, he just cares about winning (when told he was the winning pitcher):

“That’s what I heard,” Rivera said with a smile. “I’m fine with that. We won.”

Joe Girardi (who never seems happy about anything) on the other hand, didn’t like the ruling, calling it a “mistake”.  A “mistake” in judgment is all it can be ruled, and the Official Scorer’s ruling stands.  That is, unless/until the commissioners office weighs in!

– David Whitlock

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