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Mariano on 601: 'It's a great number'

MoTORONTO -- The celebration was relatively muted today in the Rogers Centre after Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth inning in the Yankees' 7-6 win over the Blue Jays to tie Trevor Hoffman's all-time record with 601 career saves.

There was a big celebration Tuesday in Seattle for No. 600 and there will be a big one for No. 602 when Rivera breaks it,  be it here Sunday or if it happens when the Yankees return home.

"Don't get me wrong, [601] is a great number but you have to hit 601 to get 602," Rivera said. "It's a great number but the most important thing is we won the game. We were down 6-1 and came back, pitched good after that."

"By being a Yankees as a player, manager and coach, you get to see a lot of great accomplishments," said manager Joe Girardi. "This is another one. You feel fortunate. ... What can you say about Mo? 602 is the big one because it just puts the final stamp on it that he's the greatest closer of all time.

"I don't think in this room we have any question. I don't want to take anything away from Trevor Hoffman but when you've been around Mo as long as I have, you've seen a lot of special things."

Click below to hear the audio of Rivera's meeting with reporters:


Mariano Rivera

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

AP Photo: Catcher Russell Martin congratulates Rivera on No. 601.

The Presidents come to Buffalo

Perhaps it's a reflection of how completely unforgettable the Buffalo Bisons' season was on the field, but I have been deluged with inquiries about the Washington Nationals' Racing Presidents appearance Thursday night in Coca-Cola Field.

So I poked around YouTube and the folks at Buffalo.com posted a video of the Presidents' race, where Teddy -- who has never won -- got overcome by the aroma of Chicken Wing and forgot to finish a race he was leading and George got the win.

I haven't found any clip of the match race between Teddy and Celery that ended with neither one winning. The Presidents, by the way, visited Toronto, Niagara Falls and the Wilcox Mansion on their trip north and tweeted shots of each. They're also included at that link of the "Let Teddy Win" blog. Hey, the Nationals stink too so the folks in DC have to get some entertainment.

The Wilcox Mansion on Delaware, you ask? Come on, history buffs. That's where the real Teddy got inaugurated after the assassination of Wiliam McKinley here in 1901.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

(Triple) Plays of the Week

I knew about the 5-4-3 triple play the Red Sox pulled against the Rays on Tuesday night (the first around-the-horn job in Sox history), but I completely missed the acrobatic 4-6-3-2 trifecta the Brewers pulled the next day against the Dodgers. That one, which finished with Prince Fielder nailing Matt Kemp at the plate, was simply sensational. The Brewers, in fact, became the first team since the 1953 Yankees to turn a triple play and four double plays in the same game.

Then Elias Sports came up with this nugget: It's the first time since 1981 we've had triple plays on consecutive days in the big leagues. Pretty rare indeed. Let's go to the video.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Nationals' Racing Presidents coming to Bisons' Fan Appreciation Night on Sept. 1

Racing PresidentsThere's the sausage race in Milwaukee and the pierogi race in Pittsburgh. Cleveland has an entertaining hot dog race (ketchup tends to get a little physical) and, of course, the Bisons have trotted out a Chicken Wing race this year that has turned Celery into a forlorn winless character that brings you back to the '62 Mets (or maybe the '09 Bisons).

But no mascot race has gotten as much sudden attention as the Presidents Race the Washington Nationals stage each night in Nationals Park. And George, Tom, Abe, and Teddy are coming to Buffalo for the Sept. 1 home finale as part of Bisons' Fan Appreciation Night ceremonies. The Presidents, who are regulars at the White House for various functions, will race and be available to fans during the game, which will also feature giveaways and a huge fireworks show after the final out.

Teddy has never won a race since it was born in 2006. Just like Celery has been an every-day loser so far this year. The Presidents have a wikipedia page with information on their history of races. The Nationals Web site has their official bios. The team also kept the standings on the site through 2010 with Abe leading with 154 wins and Teddy at 0.

There's even an entertaining blog -- called LetTeddywin -- that chronicles his efforts to finally win a race, complete with lots of video. Its current loss meter stands at 415 straight races.

Here's a look at the July 4 race.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Going to the video on Sappelt's debut

As part of Sunday's Inside Baseball column, I mentioned how former Lackawanna Little Leaguer Dave Sappelt made his big-league debut for the Reds last Sunday in Wrigley Field and it was a good first impression in an 8-7 victory.

Batting leadoff, Sappelt crushed the first pitch of the game for a line drive out to left field. But he later got his first big-league hit, a solid single to left, and made a diving catch of his own in left field.

Here's the video evidence of those two plays from MLB.com. Click the arrows in the upper left of the boxes to play.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

A look ahead to the second half

If you missed my look forward to the second half of the MLB season in today's editions, here's the link to the story. It's pretty fascinating to see there is tremendous parity in baseball even when the public perception is otherwise. In the last six years, 11 different teams have made the World Series! Pretty amazing.

My choice for a newcomer this year to that group would be the Brewers, especially now that they've acquired Francisco Rodriguez. That said, my prediction would still remain what I called in March -- the Phillies and the Red Sox. It's going to be really hard to knock either of them off come October.

So based on what you've seen so far and what you think might happen the rest of the way, take our little poll to choose who will be in the Fall Classic.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

The 3K Watch is over: Jeter joins the club

Listing the 3,000-hit club, updated with its newest member:

Pete Rose 4,256
Ty Cobb 4,189
Hank Aaron 3,771
Stan Musial 3,630
Tris Speaker 3,514
Carl Yastrzemski 3,419
Honus Wagner 3,415
Paul Molitor 3,319
Eddie Collins 3,315
Willie Mays 3,283
Eddie Murray 3,255
Nap Lajoie 3,242
Cal Ripken Jr. 3,184 
George Brett 3,154
Paul Waner 3,152
Robin Yount 3,142
Tony Gwynn 3,141
Dave Winfield 3,110
Craig Biggio, 3,060
Cap Anson, 3,055
Rickey Henderson 3,055
Rod Carew 3,053
Lou Brock 3,023
Rafael Palmeiro 3,020
Wade Boggs 3,010
Al Kaline 3,007
DEREK JETER 3,003
Roberto Clemente 3,000

Here's the video of the home run. Jeter and Boggs the only men to get 3,000 by going deep.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Jeter talks his way back into lineup

CLEVELAND -- Joe Girardi said after last night's 9-2 Yankees win here that he was seriously considering giving Derek Jeter a rest tonight. That certainly prompted a lot of nervous reaction from ticket holders to the series finale in Progressive Field, many of whom probably were coming from Western New York.

Not to worry. Jeter, like he always does, lobbied to be in the lineup and he'll be in his customary leadoff spot tonight, four hits shy of the magic 3,000 mark for his career. You can watch it tonight at 7 on YES.

Sitting in a leather chair at his locker and surrounded by about two dozen reporters, Jeter said before tonight's game that his injured calf is fine and there would be no reason for him to sit out.

"His thing was how much I'm playing just coming back," Jeter said of Girardi. "I told him I was fine and that's pretty much the extent of it."

Jeter would like to get the milestone watch over with but said that wasn't a major factor in wanting to play tonight, especially since the Yankees are going home for the weekend to meet Tampa Bay in a four-game set starting tomorrow.

"If I had 500 hits, I'd still be wanting to play," he said. "This isn't the first time I've done it. I used to do the same thing with Mr. T [Joe Torre] when he tried to take me out. I want to play."

Girardi said he talked to Jeter after last night's game in his office and they then exchanged texts in the hotel. He slept on the thought of sitting Jeter down and then made up his mind today.

"What I realized is none of us know what it's like to be in pursuit of 3,000 hits," Girardi said. "We don't know what's going through his mind. Maybe it's worse in a sense if you're sitting around thinking about it. He swung the bat good last night. Physically, he feels well. He's healthy, he's rested. So why not get him back in there? He's had success off Masterton [going 5 for 12 in his career off Cleveland starter Justin Masterton]. Get him back in there and let's get this out of the way so can go about his business in a normal way."

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Doc makes his house call to Toronto

TORONTO -- I'm on the scene at Rogers Centre for a game I've had circled in my mind for two years. It's the return of Roy Halladay to Toronto to meet the Blue Jays as the Phillies are in town for a 1:07 first pitch. This was, remember, supposed to happen last year but the teams' interleague series had to be moved to Philly because the G-20 Summit was in Toronto and the ballpark was within the security perimeter.

So MLB, in a wise move, granted the Jays' wish of a rematch series against the Phils. To top it off, they gave it to them on a holiday weekend. So more than 45,000 packed the park on Canada Day for yesterday's 7-6 Phillies win and a similar throng should be in the house today.

Halladay got a huge ovation (see the MLB.com video here) and doffed his cap as he took the lineup card to home plate yesterday. There was a video tribute and the whole thing was done at the Blue Jays' request. He should get plenty of rousing cheers again today. While many ex-Jays have heard it here when they returned, Halladay was a beloved figure and almost no one blamed him for asking out in 2009 to try to get on a winner. 

Halladay went 21-10 for the Phillies last year and then, of course, threw his playoff no-hitter against the Reds. He's 10-3 with a 2.40 ERA this season.

In the National Post, Jays pitcher Ricky Romero said, "He was the face of this franchise for such a long time,” Romero said. “He deserved a standing ovation. But as of [Saturday] I think he’s our enemy."

In the Toronto Star, veteran columnist Richard Griffin tells fans they should definitely stand and cheer when Halladay takes the mound.

In the Toronto Sun, Hall of Famer-to-be Bob Elliott has a neat read on several folks earliest recollections of Halladay.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

The Sandberg Game

For all Ryne Sandberg accomplished during his Hall of Fame baseball career, June 23, 1984 stands out as the day he became a household name.

In a nationally televised game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs second baseman had a performance for the ages. He went 5-for-6 with two home runs and seven RBIs in a 12-11 victory in 11 innings. Sandberg hit a solo homer to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning and added a game-tying, two-run shot in the 10th. Both homers came off relief pitcher Bruce Sutter, who was the dominant closer of that era.

That game brought a lot of national attention not only to Sandberg but also to the Cubs, who emerged as contenders and advanced to the postseason for the first time in 39 years. Sandberg went on to win his only National League MVP award. He also began an amazing streak of 10 straight All-star game appearances and nine straight Gold Gloves. Not bad for a guy who played his first full season at second base in 1984.

"It was a one-game thing that elevated my thought of what I was as a player, more of an impact-type of a guy, a game-winning type of a player,'' said Sandberg, manager of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, who beat the host Buffalo Bisons, 6-3, Tuesday in the first game of a four-game series.

"It was my third year in the Major Leagues at the time,'' he said. "I was only 24 years old. It really catapulted me to an MVP season and it also got the Cubs as a national draw. It was a great year. But June 23, which also happens to be my number, it also got me jumped ahead of [L.A. Dodger] Steve Sax as far as me going to the first of my 10 straight All-Star games. I was second place in the voting before that game and within four or five days after that, the game being the Saturday game of the week, I got a lot more votes and started my first All-star game in San Francisco.''

---Allen Wilson   

Stanley Cup final oddly like '60 World Series

There have been plenty of comparisons between this year's crazy Bruins-Canucks Stanley Cup final and the 1960 World Series won by the Pirates over the Yankees on the Bill Mazeroski home run. Gene Collier has an excellent look at the similarities in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Yankees lost the series despite outscoring Pittsburgh, 55-27, and winning games by scores of 16-3, 10-0 and 12-0. The Pirates' four wins saw two one-run games (including the 10-9 Game Seven clincher courtesy of Mazeroski), as well a game won by two runs and another won by three.

The Stanley Cup, of course, is heading to Game Seven tonight even though Boston has outscored Vancouver, 19-8. Eight goals in six games and the Canucks are still alive? Amazing.

Unlike that World Series, where one of the Yankees' blowouts was in Pittsburgh, this one has stayed completely along home lines. The Bruins have an incredible 17-3 edge in TD Garden with wins by scores of 8-1, 4-0 and 5-2. The Canucks, meanwhile, have won at home, 1-0, 3-2 (in overtime) and 1-0.

IMG_0077(I went with Vancouver in seven before this one ever started and don't feel the need to change now. But it's hard to believe a goalie can go through more ups and downs in the playoffs as Roberto Luongo has and still win a Stanley Cup so we'll see).

When I was in the Steel City over the weekend, I paid a visit to the University of Pittsburgh and the site of old Forbes Field, where Mazeroski's home run was hit.

A portion of ivy-covered brick outfield walls, complete with ivy and distance markings remains standing at its spot (click on pic for a bigger view). In addition, home plate from the ballpark's last game in 1970 is kept under glass at its location on the floor inside an adjacent classroom building. Quite cool.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Pagan to hit leadoff tonight for Herd

Bisons manager Tim Teufel has got his instructions for tonight from Mets manager Terry Collins: get outfielder Angel Pagan as many at-bats as possible.

That means Pagan will hit leadoff as the Herd opens a four-game set with the Gwinnett Braves at Coca-Cola Field.

Pagan won’t be long for Buffalo; he’s expected to rejoin the Mets prior to their game Friday against Philadelphia.

He will start in center field on his brief one-game rehabilitation assignment as he comes back from a strained left oblique that landed him on the disabled list April 22.

“When they come down here [on rehab], we just get them ready,” Teufel said this afternoon. “In this case with Pagan, it’s a pretty easy thing to do. Stick him in the top of the lineup and let him do his thing.

“That came from TC [Collins]. He said, ‘hey just stick him in the leadoff spot, get him some at-bats and get him ready to come up here.’ ”

Pagan has played six games with the Single-A St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League as part of his rehab. With St. Lucie, he hit .261 (8-23) with a double, home run and two RBIs.

This will be the second time in his career that Pagan has rehabbed with the Bisons. The outfielder joined the Herd for a three-game stint, May 12-16, 2009, while recovering from offseason elbow surgery. He hit .286 (4-14) with two triples, two RBIs and two runs scored in those three games. In his Bisons debut on May 12, he hit a two-run, walk-off triple in the bottom of the 11th inning of a 4-3 win over Gwinnett.

 “He said he’s feeling really good,” Teuefel said of Pagan, who will not speak with the media until after the game. “He wants to be more aggressive with the fastball tonight. He’s able to hit breaking balls pretty good, he said, down in St. Lucie. Tonight is about seeing a little bit tougher competition, a little bit better ball movement. … This is a little bit closer to the big leagues than the Florida State League, so this is a good tune-up.”

The Bisons’ starting lineup looks like this:

Pagan, CF

Luis Figueroa, SS

Valentino Pascucci, 1B

Bubba Bell, RF

Michael Fisher, 3B

Jason Botts, LF

Luis Hernandez, 2B

Mike Nickeas, C

D.J. Carrasco, P

We’ll update each of Pagan’s at-bats tonight on the blog, as well as any weather information, so check back closer to game time.

---Jay Skurski

http://twitter.com/jayskurski

Remembering Killebrew

Harmon Killebrew's death Tuesday morning from esophageal cancer was unexpected only in the speed it took place after the Hall of Fame Twins slugger's announcement on Friday that he was entering into hospice care for his final days. Manager Ron Gardenhire, in fact, said he had hoped to visit Killebrew in Phoenix this weekend while the Twins were in town for an interleague series.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has put together the definitive obit on the life of Killebrew, which is definitely worth the read. 

For video, audio and more stories, MLB.com has a full package on Killebrew's life.

The Twins' players had previously announced they would be wearing their cream-colored retro jerseys at home the rest of the season in honor of Killebrew. Nice touch.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

NY media unleashed on Posada affair

Bottom line first: Jorge Posada asked out Saturday night. Of a Yankees-Red Sox game on national television, no less. And don't believe the pathetic attempt by his wife on Twitter to claim an injury was involved.

Pretty odd coincidence this all comes late Saturday night when my Sunday Inside Baseball column was on Yankees mega catching prospect Jesus Montero. All this talk they have to trade him for pitching but how about using Montero as your catcher?

The New York media, obviously, was unleashed on the Posada story all night and here's some of their work. 

---Bergen Record columnist Bob Klapisch said Posada's simmering temper finally bubbled over in what will be remembered as the lowest point of his career.

---Post columnist Joel Sherman says this is another example of how tough it is for Yankee icons to ride into the sunset peacefully and that the catcher set off a five-alarm Bronx Zoo flashback.

---In the Daily News, Bill Madden wonders if Posada forgot Brian Cashman was the guy who put emotion aside in ending the Yankee careers of Bernie Williams and Joe Torre and had the acrimonious contract talks with Derek Jeter.

---ESPNNY's Wally Matthews says the Posada affair is a warning sign on what's to come as the Yankees' stars all age deep into their deals. Andrew Marchand goes one step further and says Posada had a sittin like Pippen moment that is now forever a part of his legacy.

---In the Boston Globe, Dan Shaughnessy says the two AL East rivals have suddenly reversed course this month.

This won't go away for some time of course and tonight's game is on ESPN. Stay tuned.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Signing out from soggy C-Town

IMG_0063CLEVELAND -- What's that old adage? Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose ... and sometimes it rains.

Or in the case of Saturday afternoon at Progressive Field, it comes down like cats, dogs, sea lions, otters and elephants (click pic at left for a bigger view from the press box). We were in the bottom of the first with no score, two Indians on base on Friday night hero Travis Hafner at the plate when the skies opened and never stopped. It was a biblical flood that inundated center field.

They finally banged this one after a wait of about two hours but not before we saw Charlie Brown and Baseball Bugs, another all-time classic, on the jumbotron. Very nice touch.

Bugs Bunny - Baseball bugs

I'll probably make it home in time to see most of Yankees-Red Sox and all of Bruins-Lightning. Here's a cheap plug alert: Sometime in the next couple of weeks, be on the lookout for a big takeout on the resurgence of the Tribe and the hope this group is bringing to Cleveland in the post-LeBron era

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Good times back for the Tribe

HafnerCLEVELAND -- There's plenty of talk here about empty seats but I don't know what all the fuss is about. I walked into Progressive Field Friday night and it seemed a lot like, oh, 1995 or 1997 or 2007. There wasn't a sellout but there were 33,000+ in the house -- and the walkup crowd was more than 8,500.

And the Indians won again in walkoff fashion, stunning Eric Wedge's Mariners, 5-4, on a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth from Travis Hafner. The place erupted when the ball cleared the center-field fence and so did Hafner's teammates (right). I've been here for many of these kinds of games over the years but this one pushes near the top of the list.  Click here to watch the dramatic video.

"We're having a blast," Hafner said. "Winning is obviously a big part of that when you have good chemistry on a team. It makes coming to the park a lot of fun again."

These guys are for real and the AL Central is a weak, weak division. The Tigers might be their only challenger. One more starting pitcher at the trade deadline and the Tribe might turn this into a runaway.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Photo: Associated Press

Wedge back in C-Town, Yanks and Red Sox open series in Bronx

CLEVELAND -- We've made it three hours to the west for tonight's Indians-Mariners game at Progressive Field in what will be ex-Indians and Bisons manager Eric Wedge's first game here since he was fired following the 2009 season. Keep it here for some updates later today on Wedge's pregame chat with the media, set for 5:25 p.m., and perhaps an update on Grady Sizemore's latest knee injury.

It's a busy Friday around the majors as well. Among the highlights: 

---The Yankees and Red Sox meet for the first time this year as they open a three-game set in the Bronx. Tonight's game at is 7 on YES and features a pitching matchup of Bartolo Colon and Clay Buchholz. Lots of questions around both teams, with the Yankees coming off Thursday's 11-5 whipping at the hands of the Royals and the Red Sox still reeling below .500

---Calm and cool Tigers ace Justin Verlander is the latest to try to match Johnny Vander Meer as he faces the Royals in his first start since Saturday's no-hitter in Toronto.

---Jered Weaver goes for his seventh win as the Angels play the Rangers in Texas.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Hall of Famer Killebrew enters hospice care

Sad news coming this morning out of Minnesota: Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew says he has exhausted all of his treatment options for esophageal cancer and will be entering hospice care to spend the final days with his wife, Nita, by his side.

In a statement Killebrew issued today through the team, Killebrew said, "I have spent the past decade of my life promoting hospice care and educating people on its benefits. I am very comfortable taking this next step and experiencing the compassionate care that hospice provides."

Killebrew, who was diagnosed in December, had a statue of his famous swing unveiled outside Target Field last year. He's 11th on the all-time home run list with 573.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

 

Fisher, Owen promoted to Bisons

---The Bisons announced that infielder Michael Fisher and pitcher Dylan Owen were promoted to the team. Fisher was with Double-A Binghamton while Owen was with Single-A Brooklyn. Also, Bisons outfielder Fernando Martinez was sent up to the Mets and pitcher Tobi Stoner has been taken off the Bisons disabled list and transferred to Single-A St. Lucie.

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Say Hey, look who's turning 80 today!

MaysIf you're got MLB Extra Innings or the MLB.TV packages, tonight's Rockies-Giants game from AT&T Park in San Francisco looks like a good one. And not just because of the interesting pitching matchup between shockingly winless Ubaldo Jimenez and Matt Cain.

The Giants are throwing a big party for legendary center fielder Willie Mays, who somehow turns 80 today. Wasn't he just patrolling the outfield? 

MLB.com has put together a huge birthday package on Mays filled with videos, and retrospective columns. It's definitely worth spending a few minutes checking it out.

In today's San Francisco Chronicle, Mays tells columnist John Shea," I had a good year because the kids had a good year." He's referring, of course, to the 2010 Giants and their run to a World Series title I covered last fall in Texas.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

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About Inside Pitch

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has covered the Buffalo Bisons since 1992 and Major League Baseball since 1995. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Harrington has reported on more than 30 MLB postseason series — including every game of the World Series in this century — and all three of the Bisons' championship runs in their modern era. He is a connoisseur of the famous Stadium Mustard at Cleveland's Progressive Field.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered the Bisons for The Buffalo News since 2002. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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