Jay-Z might have started Thursday night's game off with a bang, but it wasn't until the eighth inning that Yankee Stadium got a look at the guy who really runs this town. Well, in a baseball sense anyway. That's Mariano Rivera, of course, and he danced his way around danger across two innings before slamming the door on the Phillies in the ninth.
It was a pretty standard Rivera outing. A couple of baserunners in the eighth eliminated by a double play, a couple of strikeouts in the ninth sandwiched around a double and Frank Sinatra serenading the crowd on their way out into the night. The only thing that wasn't standard issue, in fact, was the Phillies reaction to his performance. They left feeling confident that they'd hit Rivera before too long.
“We can hit Rivera,” manager Charlie Manuel said.
"Getting to see him that much gives you the opportunity to form a game plan against him," said Phillies slugger Ryan Howard. "Obviously, the more you see a guy, the more you get used to him."
The last 14 years of American League baseball would like to respectfully disagree with Howard's take on the matter. Rivera's not tricky, there's no strange hitch in his delivery or obscure pitch coming anyone's way, it's just cutter after cutter until the night is over. Seeing him helps, obviously, as does the fact that the Phillies are a good hitting team but there's no reason to think that things are about to go Philly's way.
There's a reason for the title to this post. People try to figure out ways to cheat death and taxes all the time before finally getting smacked in the face with the reality of each of them. The Phillies aren't the first group to think they've come up with a system that will get to Rivera and puncture the force field he builds around Yankee victories. They'd be the first to actually pull it off, though, and after 14 years of people trying that should tell you something.
The problem isn't getting runners on base. The Phillies got three of them on Thursday night and the Angels scored a run against him on Sunday night. The problem is repeating the task often enough to wind up on top when the game ends. That was the problem with beating Rivera in 1998 and 2003 and that's the problem with beating him today.
Best of luck to the Phillies with their grand plan, but Rivera remains the best bet in baseball.