This one time, Mariano Rivera, not a big numbers guy, came up with a statistic on demand. He was asked to quantify his excitement about being so close to 601, the magic figure for saves, and he instantly produced an answer.
"None," he said.
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He had just secured No. 597 in his markedly quiet march toward Trevor Hoffman's saves record of 601, and he all but said, big deal.
"My assignment is to win the games. That's what it is," Rivera said after an unusually eventful ninth inning of an eventful 11-10 win over the Orioles at Yankee Stadium. "Today was one of those games when I had to battle, battle to the end. That's the way it was."
Rivera is well past worrying about style points, so he was not concerned about having given up a run on two hits and a hit batsman. Nor was he upset about having allowed the potential go-ahead run to reach second before he struck out J.J. Hardy to end it. It was just another day on which he did his job.
He did it for the 38th time this season and he closed in on a milestone, but you didn't hear it from him. His first order of business afterward was making sure his sons were behaving in the clubhouse. All day, there was no hype, no hoopla about the countdown.
"Once he gets to 600, I think it will get a lot more attention," Joe Girardi said. "I thought he threw some pretty good pitches. He gave up some hits. That's going to happen. What I didn't like was they put on the board that he'd only given up two hits in eight innings."
Girardi was kidding about jinxing the steady streak by Rivera since the three consecutive outings in which he was scored upon and appeared to some observers as though he might be losing his edge.
Rivera looked like the same old reliable guy to Scott Proctor, who made his 300th appearance as a big-leaguer, his first time pitching for the Yankees since 2007. Proctor was nervous. "I was trying not to trip on the way in," he said.
In contrast, his bullpen buddy appeared as unflappable as ever to Proctor. "Mariano has been a consummate professional. He has been such a big supporter of me, in me being able to bounce things off of him and to go to him for information, I've been very blessed," said Proctor, who was not a bit surprised that Rivera is not caught up in the chase. "He can reflect on it once the season is over. Now, it's just a number."
"It's a great number, don't get me wrong," Rivera said. "But at the same time, I don't look at it. If it's going to happen, it's going to happen. That's the way I am. I don't lose sleep because of that."