Rivera debuts in Yankees' loss to Braves

03/09/2013 6:16 PM ET
By Joe Auriemma

Mariano Rivera did not disappoint in his Spring debut, pitching a flawless one inning against the Atlanta Braves Saturday in Tampa, Fla.(AP)
Saturday's Spring Training game was not just another exhibition at George M. Steinbrenner Field. The Yankees may have been playing the Atlanta Braves, but the greatest reliever of all-time stole headlines even before the first pitch was thrown, holding a press conference before the game to announce that 2013 will be his last Major League season.

This game also marked the first time that Mariano Rivera would be taking the mound since last May 3, when he tore up his knee shagging fly balls in Kansas City. The outcome of this game was befitting of Rivera, being that it featured top flight pitching throughout.

The Yankees started Jose Ramirez, whom continued to impress this Spring, throwing four scoreless innings and allowing only one hit while striking out four Braves. On the other side, Braves starter Mike Minor threw four scoreless as well, allowing three hits and two walks. Neither team could get anything going offensively throughout the game.

The great Mariano came into the game in the fifth and did not disappoint. The sell-out crowd of 10,973 was not only treated to the beginning of the Rivera farewell tour, but Mo struck out two batters and, in vintage Mariano fashion, did not allow a runner on base in his inning of work. After his called third strike to Chris Johnson, Rivera received a standing ovation from the mostly Yankees crowd, but even the Braves fans in attendance cheered on sending praise to the great one.

After another scoreless inning from Joba Chamberlain in the sixth and no score from either team, the Braves finally got to the Yankees in the seventh inning. Tyler Pastornicky stroked a triple off of Francisco Rondon with one out and the Braves seemed to be in business. However, Rondon settled down and struck out Freddie Freeman to make it two outs in the inning, giving the Bombers some hope of being able to strand that runner at third. With Dan Uggla still in the game, he connected on a run-scoring single to center to give the Braves the lead.

The Braves tacked on an insurance run in the ninth, and they certainly needed it. The Yankees came to bat in the bottom half of the inning and gave the Braves all they could handle. Bobby Wilson and Slade Heathcott led off the inning with singles off of Braves pitcher Alex Wood. Wood settled down and struck out Ronnier Mustelier to get the first out of the inning. Poor defense almost did the Braves in as Travis Hafner reached on an error by the pitcher and loaded the bases with just that one out.

Thomas Neal stepped up to the plate, but grounded out. The play scored Wilson to cut the Braves lead in half, but left the Yankees with two outs and two men in scoring position. Wood buckled down and got the final out, as Addison Maruszak grounded back to the mound leading to the Braves victory.

The Yankees may have lost the game 2-1, but the result did not matter on this day to celebrate the one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game comments