Mariano recounts surreal 'family reunion'
Yankees closer seals victory over former skipper Torre
LOS ANGELES -- There was no reason that Mariano Rivera should have ever suspected, in all his years saving those games a continent away, that this circumstance would ever present itself.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
But there he was, jogging through the bullpen gates in right field at Dodger Stadium -- sans 'Enter Sandman' -- preparing to lock down a one-run save in the ninth inning. And Joe Torre was, for the first time in his life, hoping Rivera wouldn't succeed."I wasn't even thinking about it," Rivera said. "I wasn't even thinking that he is on the other side. I just wanted to get the three outs as quickly as possible and hold the lead." Rivera referred to Torre as "Mr. T.," but that respect didn't stop him from mowing through the Dodgers hitters he was presented with. Rivera did what Torre knew he could, striking out Manny Ramirez and Matt Kemp swinging before freezing James Loney with a disputed called third strike. "He's got a really good closer [in Jonathan Broxton], but he got to enjoy Mariano for 12 years," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "To see him come in, it was probably really strange for him, saying, 'Golly, that guy used to be on my side.'" There was a lot of that on Friday, with so many familiar faces interspersed through the two dugouts. For their part, the Yankees said the strangeness of the situation evaporated as soon as there was action between the white lines. Derek Jeter pointed into the Dodgers dugout before leading off the game, but said that spotting Torre wearing the interlocking 'LA' on his cap conjured up no different emotions than they had last July in St. Louis. "It was the same," Jeter said. "I saw him in the All-Star Game last year, so it's not like it was the first time. Pretty much the novelty wore out. I wasn't even looking over there." Pounding his glove at shortstop in the ninth inning, Jeter could hazard a guess at what was going through Torre's mind seeing Rivera enter, however. "Probably like, 'Oh no,'" Jeter said. "You'd have to ask him. He's seen Mo have so much success. It's really nothing new." Girardi has spoken about Torre as a role model of sorts, and hadn't planned to bring the lineup card out until Torre asked him if he was going to. Girardi normally doesn't, but he made an exception and got a laugh at home plate. "He joked a little bit," Girardi said. "He made a funny comment I don't care to share, but it got a chuckle out of me. It's really neat. I've always considered Joe someone I've looked up to and felt I could take anything to him. He's been a mentor of mine and very influential in my career." That said, when the game started, Girardi said any feelings of strangeness went away quickly. "It's really when you go inside after BP, because you do your final preparations," Girardi said. "It's like you're in any other ballpark in a sense. Then you come out, you see the atmosphere, but I've been here before and seen this atmosphere. It was special tonight." Jorge Posada had wondered if he'd be able to keep from making eye contact with Torre during the game, as he had so many times before. But CC Sabathia's eight innings of sharp work kept Posada engaged plenty behind the plate. "You have to think about the game and think about how you're going to get the guys out," Posada said. "CC was pretty good today. I didn't want to look over there." The pregame pleasantries were enough time to catch up, Posada said. "It was very nice to see him," Posada said. "I gave him a big hug, and he told me a lot of good things. It was good to see him." Rivera echoed similar thoughts, though of course once the game was on the line, it was all business. Torre would expect no less, and he will surely get over what he called a game that "ended up frustrating for us." "It was outstanding to see those guys," Rivera said. "It was like family. It was like a family reunion again."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.