TORONTO — Clay Holmes has never met Mariano Rivera. COVID has limited the interactions with Yankees alumni and the current players. Still, the new Bombers’ closer understands what it means to have surpassed a record set by Rivera on Saturday. And when they do meet they’ll have a lot to talk about.
With the 1.1 scoreless innings he pitched in the Yankees’ 4-0 win over the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre on Saturday, Holmes extended his scoreless innings streak to 31.1 straight innings, dating back to April 8. That surpassed Rivera’s franchise record of 30.2 straight scoreless innings, set back in 1999.
“Just for the fact that it’s Mariano Rivera makes it pretty special,” Holmes said. “He’s a guy I grew up watching. I think everybody knows what he’s done in this game, obviously it’s pretty amazing. So just to be in the same category of just one little thing he’s done, it’s pretty cool. The defense has been great. It’s been fun to pitch for the same catchers. So it’s just been sort of fun on this run. I think all of us hopefully continue to keep it up.”
Holmes has been key to the Yankees’ success this season. He has been the high-leverage guy in the bullpen and then when Aroldis Chapman was shut down with Achilles tendinitis, the 29-year-old has converted each of his 11 save opportunities.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who played with Rivera, sees at least some similarities between the two.
“They both have the ability to break a lot of bats,” Boone said. “Clay with a sinker to righties and obviously Mariano made a living doing that against left-handed hitters with the cutter in on the hands.
“So I’m sure they keep the bat industry gainfully employed.”
The last time Holmes let a run score was Opening Day. Xander Bogaerts got a leadoff double off Holmes in the sixth inning and Alex Verdugo drove in the run with a single to right field in the Bombers’ 3-2 Opening Day loss.
Since then, Holmes’ sinker has been almost unhittable. On Thursday, Holmes tied Rivera with 28 straight scoreless appearances and the Hall of Fame closer congratulated him in a Tweet.
“Yes, pretty cool. Just said that he recognized it and sent a little congratulations. You know, it means a lot,” Holmes said. “So obviously, like I said, just you know what he’s done, especially with this organization and this game. He’s a guy that just earned a lot of respect for what he’s done and who he is. Any time he sends out a congratulations, or whatever it is. It was pretty cool.”