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Positive end to Rivera's long day
10/13/2004 2:22 AM ET
NEW YORK -- Mariano Rivera's day began with the lowest of lows and ended with the highest of highs.

Rivera, who attended the funeral of two family members who were tragically killed in an accident at his home in Panama on Saturday, flew to New York in the afternoon, arriving at Yankee Stadium during the second inning of Tuesday's Game 1 of the American League Championship Series between the Yankees and Red Sox.

Rivera arrived at the ballpark at 8:52 p.m. ET, quickly walking past waiting reporters to enter Yankee Stadium. Rivera arrived in a black sedan with a police escort.

The popular reliever strolled into the bullpen at 9:53 p.m., while the Yankees batted in the bottom of the fifth inning. As he received hugs from his teammates, the sellout crowd gave Rivera a huge ovation, chanting, "Mar-i-ano! Mar-i-ano!"

Just three innings later, his team called on him to save the day, an October ritual in the Bronx.

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"Believe me, I wanted to stay home and stay with my family, but I have a job to do," Rivera said. "I have 24 players and a manager that were waiting for me and that are happy for me to be here. I'm happy to be here, also."

"What we didn't know was how he'd be, mentally," starter Mike Mussina said. "As the game turned out, we really needed him. But we're sure glad he's back. I know he's had a tough emotional two, three days."

Rivera retired Kevin Millar for the final out in the eighth, stranding David Ortiz just 90 feet from home. The All-Star closer then pitched a scoreless ninth, starting a 1-6-3 double play to clinch the victory.

"He did a great job," said Derek Jeter, a teammate of Rivera's since 1993. "I'm sure it was tough on him. It was an emotional day, and he did an outstanding job like he always does."

"He's had a tough couple of days, but he wanted to pitch," said Jorge Posada. "This game meant a lot to him. He takes a lot of pride, and it was good to see him out there."

Rivera flew in from Panama, where he has been since Sunday night, dealing with the aftermath of the family tragedy.

   Mariano Rivera  /   P
Born: 11/29/69
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 185 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Two family members were electrocuted in Rivera's pool at his home in Panama on Saturday, the same day that the Yankees advanced to the ALCS with a win against the Twins at the Metrodome. Rivera learned of the situation after the game, and he and his wife, Clara, flew to Panama on Sunday.

Clara remained in Panama with the family, while Rivera returned to New York to be with his baseball family.

"The most difficult part of my day was leaving my family, knowing that they are still in pain," Rivera said. "It was tough coming on that plane alone. I was just thinking, there's tears coming out of my eyes. It was tough. It wasn't easy, those almost five hours on that plane."

During pregame introductions, Yankees PA announcer Bob Sheppard introduced Rivera, saying, "en route to Yankee Stadium, No. 42, Mariano Rivera," as the sellout crowd went wild.

The Yankees held an 8-0 lead over the Red Sox in the seventh inning, while Mussina was pitching a perfect game. It looked as though Rivera would not have to pitch on Tuesday, but the Sox battled back with five runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth, so the Yankees turned to their relief rock.

"Around here, things tend to happen like that," said John Flaherty. "That's just the way it is. We'd have liked to have given him a night off, but it didn't happen. Boston wasn't going to roll over and make it easy for us."

"I knew we were going to get someone who went out there and did the best he can," Jeter said. "Mo is pretty strong, mentally. He's always been that way as long as I've known him."

"I came here and my friends, my teammates, they treated me like a king," Rivera said. "That was something special and I appreciate that."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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