The collective shock of 46,466 fans could be felt in the silence that blanketed Yankee Stadium as Bobby Abreu's two-out, two-run homer drove deep into the rightfield seats in the ninth inning of Tuesday night's 6-4 loss to the Angels.
It wasn't just the home run that caused jaws to drop. It was whom the hit came off. Mariano Rivera, the Yankees' rock of a reliever, had thrown a bad pitch. He had thrown a cutter that just didn't cut.
He had come into a game tied 4-4, then lost it. For one brief second, Mr. Steady had looked as undependable and volatile as your 401k.
"He threw a ball to Bobby that just didn't cut, and it hurt him," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You don't see that happen very often. It's very, very seldom. But he just happened to throw one tonight."
The home run was only the second one allowed by Rivera all season. But what may have magnified the shock of Yankees fans is that Tuesday night's outing marked the second time in two appearances that Rivera has faltered. The Yankees' closer also blew a ninth-inning lead in Sunday night's extra-inning loss in Boston.
Rivera (1-2) still boasts a 2.23 ERA, up from 1.70 Saturday.
Two bad outings in two consecutive games is not exactly a trend. This was the opinion of Rivera and Girardi, who both brushed off the bad inning as something that just happens.
"I don't worry," Rivera said. "That's going to happen. Unfortunately, it happened tonight. You have to go out again. It was a great game and we had a chance to hold it there and we didn't do it."
Said Girardi: "It was just a game today where he didn't make the pitch."
Rivera gave up two hits in the ninth. Pinch hitter Alberto Callaspo singled to right. Erick Aybar than bunted back to Rivera, who got a force at second base. Aybar stole second and moved to third on Howie Kendrick's groundout to second before Rivera threw the cutter that didn't cut to Abreu.
Girardi said he didn't think there was anything mechanically different in what Rivera was doing. "He threw some pretty good cutters before that and got some outs," Girardi said. "I'd have to look closely, but I think he just happened to throw a ball that just didn't cut."
Said Rivera: "Those things happen. I just have to come back tomorrow."