Mo's postseason legend started in '95 ALDS
As a rookie, Rivera kept Mariners in check until Yanks' walk-off homer
As Mariano Rivera prepares to retire, the closer's farewell tour has become a central subplot to the season. Major League Baseball's all-time saves leader has been greeted warmly in each of his road stops, and the Yankees are planning a ceremony of their own to honor Rivera's illustrious career in September.
Rivera will be the last active player to regularly wear uniform No. 42, with the number having been retired throughout MLB in 1997 to honor the achievements of barrier-breaking great Jackie Robinson. During his 19-year big league career, Rivera has also chiseled his own mark on the number's legacy. In honor of Rivera and his contributions, MLB.com is commemorating 42 notable moments from Rivera's career -- the 42 Days of Mo.
It was Game 2 of the 1995 American League Division Series, and Yankees closer John Wetteland had just given up a go-ahead home run to Mariners outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. in the top of the 12th inning.
With New York now trailing Seattle, 5-4, in that Oct. 4, 1995 game, Yankees manager Buck Showalter removed Wetteland and called on rookie Mariano Rivera to make his postseason debut. The young right-hander struck out Jay Buhner to end the frame, sending the game to the bottom of the 12th with the Yankees trailing by one.
That one batter could have been the end of Rivera's postseason debut. Instead, it was the start of his first postseason victory.
Ruben Sierra hit a RBI double to score Jorge Posada with two outs in the bottom of the frame, tying the game at 5 and sending Rivera out to pitch the 13th.
Rivera fired three scoreless innings from there, giving up just two hits while striking out four more Mariners. Edgar Martinez and Buhner hit back-to-back singles with one out in the 15th inning, but those were only two baserunners allowed by Rivera.
Yankees catcher Jim Leyritz handed Rivera his first of eight career postseason wins in the 15th inning, launching a one-out, two-run home run to right field to give the Yankees a 7-5 walk-off win and a 2-0 lead in the ALDS.
"In the heat of the moment, everybody thinks it's gone," Leyritz told The New York Times after the game. "I knew that I hit it far and I was just hoping it had enough to make it over. It was a great feeling."
Rivera threw 3 1/3 innings, allowing two hits while striking out five.
The Yankees went on to lose three straight games in Seattle to drop the series, but the 1995 ALDS remains the series that launched Rivera's postseason career. Rivera is 8-1 with 0.70 ERA and 42 saves over 141 postseason innings, and it all started with the 3 1/3 innings he threw against Seattle on Oct. 4, 1995.
Josh Vitale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.