Is Yankees' Closer Mariano Rivera Closer Done?

Is Yankees' Closer Mariano Rivera Closer Done?

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By Kelso Sturgeon

As a handicapper and bettor it was quite interesting and maybe insightful-time will tell-to watch the New York Yankees' future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Riverva get blasted and blow a game to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, a team against which he had gone 60-1 in saves during his career. You can now make that 60-2 and starting paying attention as the 42-year-old right-hander with the blazing cutter plays his last season.

Rivera, who has been pitching for the Yankees since 1995, implied at the beginning of the 2012 season that this would be his last. Rivera has for years been the most feared closer in baseball-and the fact he has 603 saves to his credit speaks volumes for his ability. He's lean, mean and all business-a ninth-inning, three-out Bob Gibson, if you will. A man with the look of eagles, and intimidating eyes that would melt mere mortals.

But his performance Friday, when all he had to do was to get those three outs in the ninth inning to give the Yankees a 6-5 win, had to make serious baseball handicappers asked if Rivera stayed in the majors one season too long, or was this just an off day for a pitcher who seldom had such a thing. To ask the big question is not to disrespect Rivera, who put a capital "G" in greatest for relief pitchers, but to merely put him on a "watch" list and see what happens.

The only history bettors care about is today.

Should Rivera not perform as in the past, the Yankees are in big trouble and it will certainly impact where he fits in the handicapping equation. Last season he remained almost as predictable as the sunrise, getting saves in 44 of the 49 games in which he appeared. Over the past three seasons he has been brought in to save a game 133 times and got it done 121 times.

If he is not what he was in the past, New York is going to join several other teams who play Russian Roulette when they have to go to their relief staff.

The bottom line for bettors is a simple one-nothing last forever, nobody gets better forever and there is no question Rivera has to be on the downside of his form. You won't find a soul in baseball who will say he's going to get better. Just pay attention.

The Jamie Moyer Question

When 49-year-old Jamie Moyer takes the mound for the Colorado Rockies against the Houston Astros tonight he will be attempting to become oldest Major League Baseball pitcher to win a game. For the record he is -118 to do just that, but that is not the subject at hand.

Moyer is a living legend and has denounced retirement for years now and is one of 29 MLB players to enjoy a career that crosses four decades. The left-hander started his big league career with the Chicago Cubs in 1986 and takes the mound tonight as has the most wins (267), losses (204) and strikeouts (2,405) of any active pitcher.

He too for many reasons will be under watchful eyes tonight. Moyer was considered finished at the end of the 2010 season-a year in which he went 9-9, with an earned run average (ERA) of 4.24 before suffering a severe elbow injury on his pitching arm. He had surgery and sat out all of the 2011 season but showed up for spring training this year with the Colorado Rockies and shortly thereafter locked down the second spot in the team's starting rotation.

If Moyer has his usual stuff bettors can gain in confidence the ageless wonder is just that. A bad performance puts him on the same watch list Rivera is on.

For the record the Brooklyn Dodgers' Jack Quinn was also 49 when he earned his last win in September of 1932, but he was younger than is Moyer, who also will be the oldest starting pitcher in game since Hoyt Wilhelm on July 10, 1962, made his final start for the Los Angeles Dodgers 16 days before turning 50.

It's another pay attention moment.

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