TORONTO — Clay Holmes and Mariano Rivera in the same sentence.
The former all but shook his head in disbelief at the notion after pitching the final 1 1⁄3 innings of the Yankees’ 4-0 win over the Blue Jays on Saturday. That made it 29 straight relief appearances without allowing a run, which broke a tie with Mariano Rivera, who set the record in 1999.
“I mean, just for the fact that it’s Mariano Rivera makes it pretty special,” said Holmes, who received the player-awarded championship belt given in the clubhouse to the star of the game after wins. “He’s a guy I grew up watching, I think everybody did. What he’s done in this game, obviously . . . It’s pretty amazing. Just to be in the same category of just one little thing he’s done is pretty cool.”
Holmes, with a refined slider and, most significant, a moving sinker that rival scouts have compared to Zack Britton’s when he was at his absolute peak, also extended his scoreless-innings streak to 31 1⁄3. That’s the second-longest streak by a Yankees pitcher since Jack Aker set the record (33 innings) in 1969.
“It doesn’t really surprise me that he’s found a way to keep getting better,” said Jameson Taillon, who was Holmes’ teammate with the Pirates before the reliever was traded to the Yankees last season. “But I don’t know if you could even dream of a run like this.”
Aaron Boone, a former teammate of Rivera’s, said the two relievers, though going about the job with vastly different stuff, have something in common. “They both have the ability to break a lot of bats,” Boone said. “Clay with his sinker to righties. Obviously, Mariano made a living doing that against lefthanded hitters with the cutter in on the hands. I’m sure they keep the bat industry gainfully employed.”
When Holmes tied Rivera on Wednesday night, the Hall of Famer sent a tweet congratulating Holmes and imploring him to keep it going.
“It’s pretty cool that he recognized it and said congratulations. It means a lot,” Holmes said. “Any time he sends out congratulations or whatever, it’s pretty meaningful.”
Latest on Aroldis
Aroldis Chapman, on the injured list since May 24 with left Achilles tendinitis, was scheduled to throw live batting practice Saturday at the club’s minor-league complex in Tampa.
“I think he’ll throw another live [BP], assuming everything goes well today and over the next couple of days, probably Tuesday when we’re down there,” Boone said.
The Yankees will begin a three-game series against the Rays on Monday night at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is not yet clear whether they will send Chapman on a rehab assignment when he’s deemed healthy. And though Boone has said Holmes won’t necessarily be the hands-down closer once Chapman returns, given Chapman’s performance before landing on the IL and Holmes’ lights-out season to this point, it is highly unlikely that the latter suddenly will lose the role.
Send ’em all
Yankees starters went into Saturday with a 2.76 ERA, the lowest ERA in the American League and the second-lowest in the majors (trailing the Dodgers’ 2.63). Taillon did nothing to hurt that, throwing 5 2⁄3 scoreless innings in improving to 8-1 with a 2.70 ERA.
Boone said Taillon “absolutely” is worthy of consideration for next month’s All-Star Game in Los Angeles but acknowledged that he could make that endorsement for his entire rotation. “I think all five of them [belong],” he said with a smile. “Just roll them out, 10 pitches each.”
Giancarlo Stanton was given Saturday off because of the notoriously hard playing surface here. “I knew this was the day I wanted to get some lefties in there against [Alek] Manoah,” Boone said. “And with this stretch [20 in a row], just kind of had this, and working through it with him, figured this was the right day.”
Aaron Judge, who started in centerfield Friday, batted second as the DH.