Yankees closer fans Dodgers rookie sensation for final out
NEW YORK -- Baseball's most electric rookie met the game's oldest active player from a distance of 60 feet and six inches late on Wednesday afternoon, and this intriguing battle between Yasiel Puig and Mariano Rivera did not disappoint.
Rivera fell behind Puig with two pitches out of the strike zone before zipping two cutters past the slugger's healthy, vicious swings. Rivera then froze Puig with a 93-mph offering, securing the Yankees' 6-4 victory over the Dodgers in the first game of a day-night doubleheader.
"I'm sure Puig has heard about Mo for a long, long time, and has probably had the desire to play in the Major Leagues for a long time," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He probably hoped he'd see him one day. He got to see him. It was a good matchup."
Rivera said that he was impressed by his first in-person view of Puig, who entered Wednesday's second game batting .472 with four home runs and 10 RBIs in his first 14 big league games.
The 43-year-old closer noted Puig's intensity on the basepaths; Puig was thrown out by center fielder Brett Gardner in the first inning trying to stretch a single into a double, but he did stretch a single into a double facing Preston Claiborne in the eighth inning.
"Real aggressive. A young boy; why not?" Rivera said. "If that's how you play the game, why are you going to change when you play in the big leagues? That's the way you play -- you continue playing the way you learned. Being aggressive, there's nothing wrong with that.
"You just have to be smart. [He was] a little bit too aggressive in the first, but it took a perfect throw to get him out. If the throw is a little to the left or the right, he's safe. I like to see young boys like that. I love to see the aggressiveness of the young boys that come to play hard. That's the way you play the game of baseball."
Rivera said that he had seen highlights of Puig's exploits with the Dodgers, but did not give the ninth-inning battle a higher priority than he would any other opponent.
"To tell you the truth, I don't think about it," Rivera said. "I have to do my job and he has to do his. As long as you [make] your pitches, you'll be OK."