Mariano Rivera blows seventh save, but Yankees win on walk-off wild pitch

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The four-game series against the Red Sox has been a nightmare for the Yankees, but it has mercifully ended on a good note for the Bronx Bombers. With his team leading 3-2 in the ninth inning, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera surrendered a lead-off game-tying solo home run to Will Middlebrooks, his seventh save of the season. Rivera had blown seven or more saves just twice previously in his career: seven in 2001, and nine in 1997.

Fortunately for Rivera, the Yankees were able to manufacture a walk-off victory against Red Sox reliever Brandon Workman. With one out, Ichiro Suzuki singled to center, then promptly stole second base. Vernon Wells flied out to right for the second out of the inning, but Suzuki tagged and went to third base. On the first pitch to Alfonso Soriano, Workman threw a 94 MPH fastball neck-high over the plate to Alfonso Soriano. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, positioned to catch the pitch low and away, couldn’t grab it and the ball sailed to the backstop and caromed towards the first base side, allowing Suzuki to saunter home for the walk-off victory.

The Yankees were on the verge of suffering a four-game series sweep at the hands of their bitter rival. Despite scoring eight runs or more in each of the past three games, the Yankees’ pitching could not get the job done. Rivera blew his sixth save on Thursday, the entire bullpen imploded on Friday, and starter David Huff was tagged for nine runs yesterday.

With the Rays in progress, the Red Sox temporarily drop to eight games ahead in first place in the AL East, and the Yankees move to two games behind them for the second Wild Card.

Mike Napoli and Rays have “mutual interest” in a deal

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.

Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.

Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.