Mussina ND12-3 | 6IP | 4H | 3ER | 2BB | 4K | 4.54ERA
CLEVELAND -- Joe Torre called it a tale of two games, as the Yankees dropped a 10-7 decision to the Indians in the most spectacular of endings. Bill Selby, a 31-year-old journeyman who was called up this week to replace the injured Matt Lawton, smacked a game-winning, walk-off grand slam against Mariano Rivera, who blew his second save in three days.
The slam completed Cleveland's unlikely comeback, as the Indians scored 10 unanswered runs from the sixth inning on, erasing a 7-0 lead the Yankees had taken in the fourth. Rivera gave up six runs in two-thirds of an inning, making it the worst relief outing in his career. His previous high was five runs, which he gave up to Baltimore in a game last May.
"It was two games -- the first five innings and the last four innings," Torre said. "We outscored them 7-0 in the first and they outscored us 10-0 in the second. I'd like the second game better, to be on that side of it."
Rivera entered the game to start the ninth, the Yankees holding what appeared to be a comfortable 7-4 lead. But John McDonald and Eddie Perez led off the inning with a pair of singles to right field, bringing the tying run to the plate with runners on the corners.
Chris Magruder hit a grounder back to Rivera, who turned to throw it to shortstop Derek Jeter to begin a double play. But Rivera appeared to hesitate, getting the ball to Jeter in time to force the out at second. Jeter fired to Nick Johnson at first, but it was not in time. The lead was now 7-5 with one out and a runner on first.
"I tried to let it go, and I just hesitated a little and short-hopped it," Rivera said. "I don't think there's any explanation, I just didn't throw it."
Omar Vizquel singled to right, putting runners at the corners once again. Ellis Burks followed that up with a double to left, scoring Magruder to make it 7-6. With Burks at second and Vizquel at third, Torre opted to intentionally walk Jim Thome, loading the bases with one out for pinch-hitter Travis Fryman.
"Today was one of those days. Whatever I threw, they were able to hit," Rivera said. "They were fighting them off and putting them into play. They were good pitches, but they were able to put them in play."
Rivera blew Fryman away with three consecutive fastballs, which clocked in at 96, 95 and 96 miles per hour. That brought Selby, who was batting .219 (7-for-32) with no homers and three RBIs entering the game, to the plate as Cleveland's final hope.
Rivera started Selby off with two balls, but worked the count back to 2-2. Selby lined a pitch down the right-field line, but it landed foul by a foot or two. Rivera came back with another inside cutter, but Selby opened up and turned on it, drilling it down the line for the game-winner, sending the fans at Jacobs Field into a frenzy.
"He kept throwing cutter after cutter, and the big thing is he's got to get his ball down for you to have a chance," Selby said. "I thought it might be gone when I hit it. The wind was blowing in a little bit. I saw Ellis hit a couple good balls today that just didn't really carry far. I hit it on a decent part of the bat, and I was hoping and dropped my head and just prayed: 'Please, God, let it go!'"
"I was trying to get inside on him with a cutter, and he hit it," Rivera said. "It was where I wanted it. He hit my best pitch. I can't get upset about it if he hit my best pitch."
It was the third career grand slam allowed by Rivera, who has blown four saves this season.
"They beat our best, so you have to give them a lot of credit for that," Torre said. "Knowing there's nothing wrong with him, I can't be concerned. It's going to happen. Mariano has raised the bar so high that sometimes he can't live up to it."
"He's made a pretty good living off of that cutter inside to lefties, so I wanted to stay with his best pitch and the game on the line," said catcher Chris Widger. "He'd probably go out there and throw that cutter inside to that guy 50 more times and that's not going to happen again. But it happened, and we'll move on to the next game."
The Yankees and Indians split the four-game series, though the Yankees could have easily swept it. Both losses came on blown saves by Rivera, though Torre insists that he hasn't lost any faith in his All-Star closer.
"It looked like he was throwing the ball good, it was just one of those days," Torre said. "This one was a blown save, plus. But Mariano is still the best in my eyes, and he'll continue to get the ball because he's a big-game guy."
Mike Mussina, who pitched six innings of a three-run ball, seemed as amazed as the rest of his teammates after the game. Mussina would have won his 13th game of the season, but seemed more disappointed that his team failed to capitalize on a chance to pick up another game on Boston.
"To have that happen to anybody's closer would be tough to believe," Mussina said. "But to have it happen to ours is even tougher to believe. You're going to have these games once in a while."
For Rivera, it was just the second home run allowed this year. He gave up a longball to Boston's Shea Hillenbrand on April 13, but he said that this was a harder game for him to lose.
"I can't do anything about it. Today was a tough one," Rivera said. "It was tough to lose this game, especially with the way Mussina was pitching and the whole team hit. But I can't do anything about it, it's over.
"I don't remember giving up that many runs, but I can't do anything about it. You just try to make your pitches, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't," added Rivera. "I don't have to make any adjustments. I'll come back tomorrow and pitch the same. Hopefully we'll get better results."
Torre said that he won't hold any meeting or make any speeches to help his team get past this defeat. He'll just write out a lineup card on Monday, when the Yankees open a two-game set in Toronto.
"I wouldn't know what to say to them," Torre said. "Good teams have to bounce back from whatever bad defeats you have to endure, and this was one of the worst."
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