Forty-two is a number of importance for retiring Yankees legend Mariano Rivera. As the lone holdover remaining from the moment when Major League Baseball retired Jackie Robinson's number for every single organization, he's the final 42 in the game. It also just so happens to be the exact number of postseason saves that October's greatest hurler has accumulated in a 19-year, Cooperstown-bound career.
The Yankees reached the playoffs in 16 of those seasons, allowing Rivera to amass gaudy career numbers in addition to those saves. He has allowed 11 runs -- ever -- in 96 games and 141 playoff innings, good for an ERA of 0.70. He never allowed a home run in any American League Championship series, despite pitching in 33 different ALCS contests against some of the league's toughest lineups in its greatest era for offense. In all three individual playoff rounds, Rivera's career ERA is under one -- his World Series ERA of 0.99 comes closest -- and he's picked up one loss ever in postseason play.
Thanks to technological advances that have occurred during Rivera's career, we can pull up a significant number of these fantastic saves through the use of YouTube and MLB.com's video archives, rather than relying solely on memory, word of mouth, the pages at Baseball-Reference or our imaginations to envision the above. We're still not quite at the point where we can call up all 42 saves -- please, MLB, it's 2013, get on that -- but there is more than enough for us to take a little video tour through Rivera's fantastic postseason career.
The 1997 American League Division Series was not Rivera's first postseason experience, nor was it his first success in October. This series did represent his first go at the playoffs as the Yankees' closer, and even though he gave up a game-tying home run to Sandy Alomar in Game 4, he had already earned his first-ever postseason save against the Cleveland Indians in Game 1.
In 1998, Rivera would notch his first World Series save against the San Diego Padres in Game 1. Three games later, Rivera would wrap up October with his first World Series-ending save.
En route to the series-clinching save of Game 4 in the 1999 World Series, Mariano Rivera broke Ryan Klesko's bat. Not once, not twice, but thrice. Rivera didn't allow a single run for all 12 ⅓ innings he threw in the 1999 postseason, and just 10 of the 43 batters he faced even reached base.
In 2000, it was a ho-hum ALDS save at this stage of his career, but it had significance: It led to yet another ALCS for the Yankees and also gave Rivera sole possession of first place on the all-time postseason saves list ahead of former Athletics stopper Dennis Eckersley.
That wasn't the only record of the postseason, as Rivera surpassed former Yankees great Whitey Ford's record for consecutive scoreless innings in the playoffs with this five-out save against the Mariners.
The Subway Series had a hiccup -- Rivera allowed two runs in Game 2, though, the Yankees still won -- but he erased the memory of that in short order in his next appearance two contests later. Rivera recorded six outs, putting the Yankees up three games to one, before he finished off the Mets in Game 5.
A Change In Fortunes
The Yankees would never be as successful with Rivera around as they were from 1998 through 2000, when they rattled off three World Series championships in a row. Although they attended baseball's finals once more in 2001, it ended with Luis Gonzalez blooping the game- and series-winning hit while Mo was on the mound. Before that moment, though, Rivera shined as he always had, and at a time New York needed the distraction, while clinching the ALDS ...
... the ALCS, in which the record-setting, 116-win Mariners were defeated ...
... and Game 3 of the World Series with a six-out save that helped keep the D-backs from going up three games to none.
Not Finished Yet
Even though the Yankees were not as successful as a team after 2001 -- it's hard to match, never mind top, four consecutive World Series appearances -- Rivera still had his chances to notch key postseason saves.
Rivera recorded a save against the Red Sox to open the 2004 ALCS, but it couldn't have been easy for him. Rivera had just returned from his native Panama and the funeral for two of his family members who had died in an accident. He had flown back to New York on that day, and arrived with the game already in progress, but was the same old Rivera on the mound, much to the chagrin of his opponent.
The Yankees would eventually lose the series, in part due to two blown Rivera saves, the only time he's ever blown two in the same postseason series. He would pick up another two saves in the 2005 playoffs, but the Yankees would not advance, dropping the ALDS to the Angels, opening up a three-year window where Rivera would fail to record a single save in the postseason, but not through any fault of his own -- he didn't give up a single run in his four outings, but there were no save opportunities to be had.
Rivera helped bring the Yankees back to the World Series in 2009, however, finishing off the Angels in Game 6 of the ALCS for his third save of that October.
One year later, Rivera would record what very well might be his final postseason save when he shut the door on the Rangers in Game 1 of the 2010 American League Championship Series to earn that precious 42:
The Yankees were eliminated from the 2011 ALDS before Rivera could pick up #43, and his season-ending injury in 2012 kept him from adding to his record total. The Yankees are, as of now, not headed to the postseason for only the second time in Rivera's career as closer, meaning he might never advance beyond 42. While Yankees fans surely want to win, especially in Rivera's final campaign, there is something fitting about the postseason record for saves sitting right where it is, stopped on an iconic number and held by the greatest reliever and greatest playoff pitcher of all time.