The ending, with Mariano Rivera on the mound, was a familiar one. As soon as Shane Victorino slapped a weak ground ball toward Robinson Cano, who scooped the ball and tossed over to first base, a smiling Rivera gave his classic fist pump.
How that ball eventually made it to Rivera, however, was not by the usual formula. With regular-season stalwarts Phil Hughes (16.20 ERA) and Phil Coke (13.50) reduced to minor roles in this World Series, the important outs ultimately fell to Joba Chamberlain and - surprise - Damaso Marte.
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That's how manager Joe Girardi drew it up anyway for last night's clinching 7-3 victory over the Phillies in Game 6 of the World Series. Once the fading Andy Pettitte allowed a two-out double to Raul Ibañez in the sixth inning, Girardi called on Chamberlain, who got Pedro Feliz on a ground ball to third.
It wasn't all smooth sailing for Chamberlain. A two-out walk to Victorino in the seventh inning put two Phillies on base, but Girardi entrusted Marte to face Chase Utley, otherwise known as Mr. November for torching the Yankees with five homers this series.
But Marte made quick work of Utley, striking him out on three pitches, and he opened the eighth by whiffing Ryan Howard as well. That made five strikeouts in 22/3 scoreless innings for Marte, who seemed a little disappointed to hand off the ball to Girardi when the manager arrived at the mound. Not bad for a guy with a 9.45 ERA in 21 appearances during the regular season.
The question leading up to Game 6 was how long Girardi would wait before using Rivera to close out the clincher. Rivera had been stretched to the limit during this postseason, with three appearances of two innings or more. But after Rivera was not needed in the Game 5 loss, Girardi knew he could push him, and the manager called for the five-out finish.
It was his 12th appearance of these playoffs, one more than a personal record set in 2001. But with the bases empty, it was not a save situation. As usual, Rivera dispensed with the drama. He struck out Jayson Werth and got Ibañez on a foul pop behind the plate to end the eighth.
The ninth inning also was uneventful. Pinch hitter Matt Stairs took a few healthy hacks and hit a couple of vicious foul balls, but Rivera got him on a liner to short for the first out. After a walk to Carlos Ruiz, Rivera retired Jimmy Rollins on a fly to right and took 10 pitches to eventually get the pesky Victorino.
Rivera, probably considered the MVP runner-up to Hideki Matsui, pitched 51/3 scoreless innings with two saves in the World Series. Overall in this postseason, Rivera had a 0.56 ERA in his 12 appearances with five saves.