Mariano ties record after Yanks rally

New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera smiles after

New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera smiles after tying the Major League Baseball all-time saves record following a 7-6 win over the Toronto Blue Jays in a baseball game in Toronto. (Sept. 17, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

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TORONTO -- Mariano Rivera is on the verge of recording the save he calls "the biggest" one.

Rivera tied Trevor Hoffman for the all-time lead in saves at 601 Saturday afternoon in the Yankees' 7-6 come-from-behind victory over the Blue Jays in front of 39,288 at Rogers Centre.

With his wife and two of his three sons in attendance -- the eldest, Mariano Rivera Jr., is away at college (Quinnipiac), though Rivera hinted he might come to today's game -- No. 42 pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 42nd save of the season.

"You have to hit 601 to get 602, so it's a good number," Rivera said. "The most important thing is that we won the game. We were down, 6-1, and came back."

The Yankees (91-59) improved to 4-5 on this 10-game trip that started with a makeup game Sept. 8 in Baltimore and are now 4 1/2 games ahead of the Red Sox.

Rivera struck out Colby Rasmus looking at a 90-mph cutter for the first out of the ninth; got Brett Lawrie to ground to first -- shattering the center fielder's bat, of course -- for the second out; and got Eric Thames to fly to short center to end it.

The celebration was subdued compared to the one that followed No. 600 in Seattle Tuesday night (though, in truth, no one got overly carried away in that one, either).

"I think 602 is the big one and I think 600 is a milestone, anytime you hit a hundred mark," manager Joe Girardi said. "I think the next one will be the real big one."

The understated celebration was fine with Rivera, who joked with reporters who normally, because he's been so good at his job, typically only talk to him after he fails.

"You guys are horrible," Rivera smiled. "Yes, I am uncomfortable. I don't [like to] have this much attention at all. I'd like you guys to just leave it alone."

He, of course, knows that won't happen and the topic isn't something his teammates tire of.

"Mo's awesome, you just run out of things to say about him," said Alex Rodriguez, who made his return to the lineup from a sprained left thumb and hit a three-run homer.

"I think he'll be really excited and I think we'll all be really excited for 602," said Mark Teixeira, who came into the game in a 1-for-15 skid but went 2-for-5, including a double.

Rivera, as he did after Tuesday's game and most saves, credited his teammates and they, headlined by Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and the relievers that preceded Rivera, were more than bit players in Saturday's victory.

Bartolo Colon allowed six runs in four innings, putting the Yankees in 6-1 hole. But they rallied, with A-Rod, testing out his new tape-assisted grip to reduce pressure on his thumb, hitting a three-run homer off Henderson Alvarez in a four-run sixth inning that made it 6-5, and Granderson giving them the lead for good with a two-run shot in the seventh.

For Granderson, 4-for-30 on this trip coming in, it was his 40th home run of the season, making it 7-6. Granderson went 3-for-3 with two RBI, giving him an AL-leading 113, and two walks.

"Grandy, he's the kind of guy that can carry you on certain days," Girardi said. "It's just who he is."

The Yankees received stellar relief pitching, most of it not from the usual crew.

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Scott Proctor pitched a scoreless fifth, giving way to lefty Aaron Laffey in the sixth, followed by Hector Noesi in the seventh and Rafael Soriano in the eighth.

Girardi likely stayed away from David Robertson because he had pitched in three straight games, two of which required him to throw 24 and 30 pitches, respectively.

Soriano, appearing in his fourth straight game -- he struck out the side Friday night -- struck out the side in the eighth inning Saturday. Going back to Wednesday night in Seattle when he struck out Wily Mo Peña, that made it seven straight strikeouts for Soriano.

But on this day -- and on whatever day 602 comes -- all of it was pushed to the background.

"He deserves to be on top, there's no doubt," Teixeira said of Rivera's eventual accession to No. 1. "This list, he deserves to be on top of it."

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