Rivera ends long day feeling blessed

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

NEW YORK -- It was great post-season theatre.

For the Boston Red Sox and fans of the Red Sox Nation the game had the same old, painful ending.

Ground Hog Night. Again and again.

The curse of the Bambino lives.

The ghosts of Yankee Stadium still breathe.

After seeing starter Curt Schilling whacked for six runs to fall behind 8-0, the Sox looked up to see the tying run on third base with two out in the eighth and here was Mariano Rivera coming on in relief.

What's worse it looked as if Schilling's right ankle was not 100%. Who starts if Schilling can't in Game 4? Schilling says he won't unless he's healthier than last night.

"Any time you are down that far and get the tying run to the plate, you know you have battled," Terry Francona, the Sox manager said valiantly as many Boston managers have said before in other post-seasons. "The vibe in the dugout was good even though we were down 6-0."

When the Sox left Yankee Stadium Monday after their workout they weren't sure whether Rivera would be back in time for the opener of the American League championship series.

What's the worst thing that can happen in your life?

Burying a loved one. Rivera buried two yesterday morning in Panama.

What's the thing you dream about as a kid pitcher? Pitching a shutout? Getting the save in the post-season? How is it possible to go from a family's grief in the morning to bringing so much joy to Yankee fans in the eve?

"That's who I am," Rivera said, "I am blessed, I thank God. He keeps me humble, when you believe you can do anything that you want, you can.

"I came to pitch, my teammates needed me to pitch."

Old reliable Rivera did the job, popping up Kevin Millar to end the eighth to end Boston's chance. The Sox battled their butts off to come back from a hole deeper than a dry Oklahoma oil well, where their ace, Schilling, had placed them only to leave the tying run at third.

Rivera actually returned to Yankee Stadium in the third inning and arrived in the bullpen in the bottom of the fifth. The only time you saw the rows of the cornfield move was when one Yankee reliever after another hugged him.

"It was tough, leaving my family," Rivera said. "They are keeping me in their prayers. I came here and my teammates treated me like a king, they made this happen."

Rivera retired the first out of the ninth, then gave up back-to-back singles, bringing up Bill Mueller, who hit a home run to beat Rivera in July at Fenway.

"If it would have happened, I would have put it behind me," Rivera said after turning a comebacker into a game-ending, double play.

"I was trying to do as much as possible for my family, I talked to my wife and my family and they said, 'I should be here,' " Rivera said softly. "There were 24 players and a manager waiting for me.

"The most difficult part for me was leaving my family when they were in pain and me getting on the plane alone. Tears were came out of my eyes."

Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre went into the clubhouse when Rivera arrived. Rivera said he was OK to pitch. The opener was a roller coaster.

"I don't trust anyone more than Mariano, in situations like this," Torre said. "What Mariano and his wife Clara have been through the past few days, it was probably a chance for him to hide in his uniform for an hour or so."

There is no place for the Sox to hide. Next re-run: tonight.


Videos

Photos