They say it's different.
They say pitching the ninth inning is different than pitching the eighth inning.
Today, David Robertson might agree.
Before Mariano Rivera's season ended last Thursday night, Robertson hadn't pitched in a save situation all season. His next outing came a few nights later, but it wasn't a save situation. He entered in the ninth inning, but the Yankees were up 6-2 against the Royals; Robertson struck out all three batters he faced.
Robertson didn't pitch the ninth inning in a save situation last year, either. Last year, Robertson was the Yankees' eighth-inning guy, and performed brilliant. If you combine his 2011 and his 2012 before his first save situation -- we'll get to that moment in a moment -- Robertson pitched as well as any relief pitcher in the major leagues.
In 78⅔ innings, Robertson gave up 47 hits and allowed eight runs. He struck out 121 batters, and his ERA was ... well, his ERA was simply ridiculous: 0.92.
As you might imagine, no pitcher with as many innings as Robertson sported an ERA so low; in fact, no pitcher with at least 50 innings since Opening Day in 2011 has an ERA that begins with a zero. David Robertson was on a planet of his own.
As an eighth-inning setup man.
As a closer? Not so much.
Tuesday night, Robertson got his first shot as the Yankees' closer. And he did convert the save opportunity, but not before giving up a hit and a couple of walks to load the bases, finally escaping by striking out the dangerous Carlos Pena.
Wednesday night, there would be no escape. Asked to protect a 1-0 lead, Robertson gave up consecutive first-pitch singles, a walk, and then a game-tying sacrifice fly before Matt Joyce unloaded a three-run homer to blow things open. That was the most shocking thing, as Robertson had given up just one home run in his previous 98 appearances.
Is it a coincidence, then? That after a season-plus with a 0.92 ERA, Robertson would suddenly give up four hits and three walks in his first two outings as the Yankees' designated closer?
Ask me again in a few weeks. Maybe the ninth inning is different. But it's not like the eighth inning doesn't have its pressures, too. Or maybe it's not the ninth inning, per se. Maybe it's the pressure of replacing a legend. Maybe that's a pressure to which one can be accustomed. To which David Robertson can be come accustomed, anyway.
Ask him again in a few weeks.