Major milestone falls in New York

539910.jpg

Major milestone falls in New York

From Comcast SportsNet Tuesday, September 20, 2011
NEW YORK (AP) -- Now that save No. 602 is behind him, Mariano Rivera is happy to step back out of the spotlight and work on another big number: six. Despite five World Series championships in 17 seasons with the New York Yankees, Rivera has never come to enjoy individual attention. "You know me, I'm not like that," Rivera said. "I like to be under the radar, do my job." There was no chance of that Monday afternoon, when the smallest crowd in the three-year history of Yankee Stadium nearly drowned out Metallica's "Enter Sandman" as Rivera came in for the ninth inning. They hollered with every pitch -- and there weren't many of them. Rivera retired the Twins' Trevor Plouffe, Michael Cuddyer and Chris Parmelee to end the Yankees' 6-4 win over Minnesota and break Trevor Hoffman's mark. Rivera even broke a bat for good measure -- sawing off Parmelee and sending the rookie back to the dugout for another piece of wood. Parmelee lasted only one more pitch. Plate umpire John Hirschbeck rung him up, and catcher Russell Martin came out to the mound, gently placed the ball in Rivera's glove, then gave him a big hug. Rivera stayed and accepted congratulations -- Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and finally Derek Jeter came over before the bullpen and bench got there. The Twins watched from their dugout. Rivera tried to walk off the field with the rest of the Yankees, but longtime teammate Jorge Posada pushed him, laughing, onto the mound, where fans cheered him once again. Never comfortable in the spotlight, Rivera didn't know quite what to do. He proved equal to the moment yet again. Rivera smiled, blew a kiss to the crowd, and then doffed his cap as cheers washed over him. "For the first time in my career, I'm on the mound alone," Rivera said. "It was priceless. I didn't know it could be like that." It was the second big moment at home for the Yankees and their fans. In July, Jeter got his 3,000th hit in the Bronx. Rivera's may have been the more remarkable achievement, considering the slender right-hander throws mostly one pitch. Opposing hitters have seen it for years, but still haven't figured it out. "It's amazing," Cuddyer said. "You've got a 99 percent chance of knowing what's coming, and he still is able to go out there and dominate." He nearly did it outside the country. The 41-year-old Rivera tied Hoffman with save No. 601 on Saturday in Toronto. The AL East leaders lost Sunday, putting Rivera in line to get the milestone in the Yankees' last homestand of the season. And who would've thought it, at least back in 1995 when Rivera started out. He began his career as a starter, lasting only 3 1-3 innings and losing 10-0 to the Angels in his debut, before becoming a star in the bullpen. Rivera's 602 saves have come in 674 chances. Hoffman got his 601 in 677 tries. Paid attendance was 40,045, less than the capacity crowd and attendant hullabaloo surrounding Jeter's historic hit. STATS LLC said Monday's makeup game drew the fewest fans since the new Yankee Stadium opened. The Twins lost their ninth straight, tying a run in May as their worst of the season. The Yankees have been struggling, too -- this was just their fifth win in 12 games. Rivera has finished their last three victories, though. He earned his 600th save in Seattle on Sept. 13. Now that the milestone is behind him, Rivera can focus on getting ready for his 16th October in 17 seasons -- the time of year his reputation was made. Those 602 saves don't count any of the 42 he locked down in the playoffs -- in only 47 chances. The Yankees lead Boston by 5 games in the AL East with 10 to play. A.J. Burnett didn't make it past the fifth inning, but Cory Wade (6-1), Boone Logan, Rafael Soriano and David Robertson kept the Twins at bay until Rivera came on in the ninth, and Curtis Granderson hit his 41st homer of the year. Granderson's homer off Scott Diamond (1-5) came in the first after Jeter reached on an infield single, and Robinson Cano hit an RBI triple in the third followed by Nick Swisher's single to make it 5-0. Rodriguez hit a two-out RBI single in the sixth -- right around the time Rivera was realizing he could be called on in the ninth. As he has been since he got his first save on May 17, 1996, Mo was ready in the ninth. Eventually, he will no longer be the Yankees' closer. Rivera said he doesn't know yet when he'll call it a career, saying "it's a decision that we have to make as a family." "I don't know if I can pitch three more years, you guys. It's hard out there. I don't have any hair anymore." Just five pitchers who were primarily relievers are in the Hall of Fame: Hoyt Wilhelm (1985), Rollie Fingers (1992), Dennis Eckersley (2004), Bruce Sutter (2006) and Goose Gossage (2008). Rivera, who turns 42 in November, is set to be the sixth once he does retire. "Baseball will remain without me," Rivera said. "There will be other good guys closing games -- and I will be watching."

Brown taking opportunities with Celtics as they come

Brown taking opportunities with Celtics as they come

BOSTON -- Compared to most high draft picks, Jaylen Brown doesn’t log a ton of minutes for the Boston Celtics.
 
Playing on an experienced team with legit hopes of making a deep playoff run, rookies seeing limited minutes is a given.
 
Knowing playing time will come in a limited supply, Brown understands all too well the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity he gets on the floor.
 
He did just that on Saturday in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia, and he hopes to do more of the same on Monday when the Celtics take on the Houston Rockets.
 
When you look at Brown’s stat line, nothing about it looks impressive. He played 15 minutes, scored two points with one rebound and one blocked shot.
 
But beyond the stats was the fact that he was on the floor for seven minutes in the fourth quarter in a close back-and-forth game on the road. Rookies on the floor in crunch time is not the norm in the NBA.
 
“It means a lot,” Brown told reporters after Saturday’s win. “I try to be as best I can be for my team; try to put my best foot forward every night out.”
 
And he did just that on Saturday.
 
In the fourth quarter with the Celtics leading 87-83, Brown blocked a Gerald Henderson shot that wound up in the hands of Jae Crowder. Moments later, Jonas Jerebko hit a 3-pointer that gave the Celtics their largest lead of the game, 90-83.
 
And just two minutes prior to the blocked shot, he was out in transition following an Isaiah Thomas steal and threw down a dunk that pushed Boston’s lead to 86-83 with 7:11 to play.
 
Brown acknowledged making the most of those opportunities bodes well for him and the franchise.
 
“It’s great for our team in general; not just for me,” Brown said. “Those plays helped us to pull the game out in the end. So I’m glad we got the win. I think we should have played a little better than we did.”
 
The continued pursuit of self-improvement is a hallmark of what Brown’s focus and desire are at this stage of his pro career. He has talked often about not wanting to be just one of the best in this draft class but also one of the best in the NBA overall.
 
But he’s also learned that to get there takes time and experience developing both physically and mentally. Part of that mental growth entails having the right approach to games.
 
“Usually you try to tell yourself not to mess up,” Brown said. “Now that I’m getting more comfortable, it’s just play basketball, bring energy, things like that; come out and do what you’re supposed to do. A lot of times you try to tell yourself to not mess up and it’s counteractive; just come out and play basketball and have fun.”
 
And by doing so the minutes will come.
 
“You can’t control that. I just have to control what I can control,” Brown said. “I trust coach (Brad Stevens); I trust my coaching staff. I have to come out and in the minutes I get, play my hand as best I can and take advantage of what I do get and impact this team as much as possible.”
 
This season, Brown is averaging 4.8 points, 2.0 rebounds while shooting 41.9 percent from the field.

Zolak: Bennett helps with Gronk loss, but Pats need to manage him

Zolak: Bennett helps with Gronk loss, but Pats need to manage him

Scott Zolak said on Pregame Live Sunday that the Patriots are better-suited to survive a season-ending injury to Rob Gronkowski than they were a season ago. 

Zolak said that given the health of Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and the signing of Chris Hogan, the offense has more stability at other positions to make up for the loss of Gronkowski, whose season is over due to back surgery. As for the tight end position, Zolak said he feels the Patriots traded for Martellus Bennett to protect themselves against scenarios like the one they currently face. 

“This offseason they [acquired] Martellus Bennett, I think for this very reason: to prepare for what really happens year after year, is some sort of issue comes up with Rob Gronkowski and you have to play without him,” Zolak said.

Bennett was questionable with an ankle injury for this week’s game, but is expected to play. Asked about the health of Bennett, Zolak said that he believes the tight end is good to play, but that his importance to the team with Gronkowski out means the Pats will need to be careful. 

“I think he’s healthy enough to get through about 30-35 snaps,” Zolak said. “They’ve got to balance him now moving forward.”